You’re not going to believe this. Then again, maybe you will.
Remember the job I was telling you about? Nine days of unpaid training and the need to pass a bunch of proficiency tests, after which we were to start a part-time, no-benefits contract job for $9.50 an hour? Today I received a notice congratulating me on passing the final test. Unfortunately, the notice then went on to inform me that the project has been canceled. Just like that. There will be no jobs for anyone. No reason was given.
I’m still reeling from the news. While it may not sound like much, in our current situation, this job was like a lifeline. True, it was a contract job, but the contract period was to be extended indefinitely, and we’re desperate for any kind of steady income. Also, while the pay was low and the hours limited, there was a clear path to advancement, which would have meant better pay and more hours in the future. Most of all, we have no other source of income right now. None. Which is why I worked my ass off during the training period, even spending precious time away from my critically ill Balou because I really, really needed this job to work out.
The job was scheduled to start today. When I didn’t hear from my supervisor yesterday, I was a bit worried that maybe I hadn’t done as well as I thought on the final test, but it never occurred to me that the whole project had been canceled. That there might not be any work at the end of the training period even after passing all the proficiency tests with flying colors (which, it turns out, I did) was never even mentioned as a possibility.
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Every time I hear that the administration needs to focus on job creation or that X number of jobs have been created last month, I can’t help but wonder what kind of jobs people are talking about. Because it’s not just jobs we need. America desperately needs well-paying jobs. The type of jobs that will allow workers to buy more than the bare necessities. The type of jobs that make home ownership possible. The type of jobs that do not leave workers dependent on government assistance. The type of jobs that produce substantial tax revenue. The type of jobs that have been eliminated in droves to be replaced–in so far as they are replaced at all–by ever lower paying jobs.
The reason the economy–and with it the country–is going down the tubes can be summed up as too much wealth in too few hands. For a while, rising property values and easy availability of consumer credit shielded most people (and the economy as a whole) from feeling the pain associated with stagnant middle and working class wages, but the massive income inequality at the root of our problems has been in the making for at least thirty years. And it has finally caught up with us. The growing number of people at the bottom of the income pyramid are going without because they can’t afford to buy much-needed products and services, while those at the top horde much of their income because they already have far more than they will ever need. Unfortunately their greed knows no bounds, so we’re seeing 25% pay increases for senior executives, while low income workers in the same company must subsist on minimum wage.
Speaking of which, what’s the point of having a minimum wage that doesn’t pay enough to live on? At $8/hr, California’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, but it’s still grossly inadequate. According to the California Budget Project, a single adult with no kids needs to earn twice the minimum wage just to make ends meet. Note that this budget does not allow for any vacation time ever (unthinkable in the rest of the developed world), nor does it include saving money for retirement or a down payment on a house. Also not included are dental/vision coverage/care, Internet access, cable or satellite TV, costs of having a pet, travel, entertainment (e.g., movies, concerts, video games, music), or saving for emergencies (such as car repairs or the included health care plan’s $500 deductible). And, of course, the cost of having and raising kids isn’t included. Families with children need to earn three to four times the minimum wage to get by.
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