Living Wages

Reuters headline yesterday: “Minimum wage fight hits the streets of nearly 200 U.S. cities”

Aug. 17, 1998

I went to work for a day and they paid me $70 an hour for six hours. At $7 an hour that’s 60 hours, or 42 hours at $10 an hour, more than a week’s work, standing on your feet all day, lifting heavy bolts of fabric, opening drawers of dress patterns, bending and heaving, cutting and turning, until you hurt your back, your wrists, your legs. Arthritis, rheumatism, varicose veins, carpal tunnel, you’ve got it all. $10 an hour – that’s a lot of money. That’s a good job. They made you manager of the store.

“What about you? What do you do?”

“Oh, I – I teach. I work on my own. Not all the time. Just when they call me.” I mumble and avoid their eyes.

They look at me, not sure whether to feel sorry or envious. “It’s good to work for yourself. Set your own hours. No one to be your boss.”

“Ahh… well, I have to work when they call. It’s hard not to know when I have to work. A steady job is good.”

They feel sorry for me now. “Yes, a steady job is good. Bring in some money. Pay the bills. It’s not easy, getting a good job.”

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