From Hightower Lowdown:
Working. Poor. In our US of A, those words ought never be juxtaposed. The very concept of paying poverty wages in the richest nation in the history of the planet is an abomination--a mark of societal failure. Yet, not only have millions of our people been shoved into the abyss of the working poor, but our soulless corporate and political elites tell us to get used to it, for the Walmartization of work is our nation's future.
If you think it couldn't happen to you, consider the situation of one group of more than a million workers today who had assumed that they were going to be solidly middle class, but--surprise!--each one has ended up struggling to make ends meet by working three, four, or even more poorly paid, part-time, temporary jobs. To put a name to this little-known segment of Americans, I've created "Victoria," who is drawn from my reading of dozens of their stories. She's a composite, but all too real:
Now 38, and living in the sprawl of Chicago, Victoria had not expected her life to be so harried and edgy. Juggling three jobs, her days are a frenetic scramble--she leaves her apartment by 6 am to be on time for the first one, darts clear across the city for number two, then hops on I-90 to get out to a western suburb for the third job. It'll be past 7 pm before she makes it back home.
Victoria is part of fast-growing flock of contingent workers who're so constantly shuttling from one job to the next that they have the dubious distinction of being dubbed "freeway flyers."
Not only is her commute a grind, but it also costs a bundle. Victoria's road-weary 2003 Corolla frequently needs repairs, and her gasoline bill alone runs more than $100 a week. Since none of her three employers reimburse her travel expenses, that's over $400 a month that comes straight out of her pocket. Victoria worries a lot about the rising prices for gas, food, rent, and other basics, for her three meager paychecks add up to less than $2,000 a month, gross.
None of her employers provide health coverage, pension, paid sick leave, paid vacation time, ladder of upward mobility, or respect. There's no job security--she can be fired on a boss's whim, with no notice and no severance pay. Also, Victoria's bosses keep shifting her work schedule at the last minute, forcing her to recalibrate on the fly. She gets no say in any of this.
Now here comes the punch line to Victoria's story. She's not the stereotypical minimum-wage worker with little education, experience, or credentials. To the contrary, she has three degrees (including a PhD), 12 years experience in her profession, and top performance ratings from her employers, and what most of us think of as a prestigious position: Victoria is a college professor!