So said the check out clerk I had come to talk to outside the Wall Mart in Irving Texas. “I can’t get enough hours to pay the bills” she said. The other clerks and workers quietly nodded in agreement. I saw by the look of reflection in their faces that each one faced some similar financial issues in their personal lives.
I had come out of the attached McDonald’s inside the store with a soft ice cream cone that I noticed had started to liquify the closer I got to the exit door. As soon as I had left the air conditioning and entered the real world of 105 degree heat the cone began dripping onto my fingers. I noticed the seating area under a canopy where the staff on break was sitting. The thin strip of canvas and the angle of the sun provided a stripe of shade about two feet wide.
I could have gone back into the store but instead the people there saw my predicament and scooched aside to make a place for me. I was a guy with a problem, this seemed to be a communal recognition that everyone could relate to. Maybe my situation with the cone fast disappearing was a material metaphor on the zietgiest of these hardworking people. No one liked to see a dollar get wasted, they were few and precious among this tribe.
Did you know that a majority of Americans work an average of seven hours of unpaid overtime per week? It is also a fact that few workers here take their full allotment of vacation days in consecutive order. Statutory holidays are just another shift, without compensation. During my conversation with these people I found that they were all experts on the labour scene in Texas and summary statisticians on the day to day reality of the American worker.
It was common agreement that every one would have liked to have a ‘second job’. And when they said the words it came out sounding like a wistful fantasy, because even though they wanted to work more and make extra money, there were no second jobs to be had. Affluence was obviously a pipe dream for people on the lower end of the employment spectrum.
I read yesterday in ‘USA TODAY’ that ‘good jobs’ were becoming increasing out of reach for a huge swath of the American working class. The article stated that without an advanced degree, promotion was next to impossible. I’m hoping that the recession doesn’t last for too many more years….these people deserve better.