May 13, 2010

What we're reading: May 13, 2010

The article that caught our eye today focuses on "the new poor" - people like Cynthia Norton, who after working as a secretary for over 30 years, can't find work in her trade anymore, can't get the help she needs from government agencies, and after putting herself further in debt to complete a medical assistant certification, can't even get a job in the supposedly booming health care industry. Her only option since being laid off has been to work part-time at a Jacksonville, Fla. Wal-Mart, a job that pays 1/3 her former salary.

And, if that isn't bleak enough for you, here's the quote that will sadly resonate with much of America right now:
“Sometimes I think I’d be better off in jail,” she says, only half joking. “I’d have three meals a day and structure in my life. I’d be able to go to school. I’d have more opportunities if I were an inmate than I do here trying to be a contributing member of society.”
The article discusses the structural unemployment that has accompanied the current recession - jobs we won't get back - and the lack of good policy solutions to help the long-term unemployed. There are parts of the reporter's argument we may disagree with, but what's clear is that with so many jobs disappearing forever - clerical and manufacturing jobs being two of the biggest categories - retail jobs are the jobs of the future. Ms. Norton couldn't find work in an office or in a lab; she didn't seek out a teaching job; she went into retail. With more and more Americans turning to retail jobs, and with retail quickly emerging as the predominant force in our economy, it has never been so important to make retail jobs family sustaining jobs - with livable wages, affordable benefits, and a prospect for future security.

Happy (?) reading!


Matt said...

It's interesting that retail would become the main line of employment for so many out of work people. I have made my mistakes through the years, but one things for sure, if I had just kept my first job in the grocery department at the Shop Rite in Watchung, I would right now be making good money. Maybe even very good money.

The only problem with retail outlets like food stores is that you have to be there for many years before the pay can become something you can live off of. Despite many being unionized the starting pay is still poverty like.

I emailed this before but I will leave it again here. This book is a must read for all working class people: The ABCs of the Economic Crisis: What Working People Need to Know by Fred Magdoff and Michael D. Yates. Below is an excerpt.

"Financial institutions made mountains of cash loaning money to working men and women. In effect, those at the top extracted income from those below and then loaned some of this money back to those with lower incomes."

Anonymous said...