Posts Tagged ‘middle class’

Regaining My Power: Success?

To live an average middle-class life it costs a family about $130,000 per year. To afford a two-bedroom apartment in Maine, a worker needs to be making at least $18.05 per hour. Nationally, to afford a one bedroom apartment, a worker needs to be making at least $15.50 per hour. Remember these numbers.

In the last few months I was offered and accepted a permanent position with a company. Like many similar companies, they do temp-to-hire most of the time which means that for 90(ish) days, their new employees are without insurance or job stability. It’s a 90-day interview. I like the company, they like me. Now that I’m a “real” employee I have insurance and paid vacation along with the limited job security one gets these days. They are proud to be offering competitive wages. I’ve certainly seen worse for similar jobs, though I have heard of better in the area.

I am making $14.00 per hour. Please refer to paragraph #1.

The solution to this, of course, is to “get a better job.” The problem is that this is a “better job.” I’m not flipping burgers, here. (The fact that burger-flippers deserve a living wage, too, is a discussion for another day.) This job doesn’t require a college degree to do the work but good luck getting an interview if you don’t have either a degree or a fair amount of work experience. It’s an office job where I get to be in a temperature-controlled environment and stare at multiple computer monitors all day long. This is supposed to be a job to strive for.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not about this particular company twisting the screws on us poor workers. I believe that they genuinely believe they’re doing well enough by their workers with what they offer. I’m not silly enough to ask them to do well by their workers at such an insignificant level as the literal interface between the customers and the company, but I think they are earnest in doing well enough. The problem is the paradigm in which a company can earnestly offer wages that are competitive in the local economy yet still offer too little to allow them to afford a one-bedroom apartment.

This, of course, leads into my current personal struggle. I have had a job, mostly full time, for pretty much my entire adult life. I have not had a minimum wage job since I was shelving books at the library at 16. When I wasn’t employed, I was living off of my own money, such as it was. Since I sold my last horse, I have no outrageous spending habits to support. Yet, despite all of that, I am living in my parents house because it wouldn’t have been long before I was homeless if I hadn’t moved here.

I have a “better job,” and I have future prospects at the company, provided they don’t take offense at this post. Somehow I’m supposed to be grateful for this opportunity. But grateful for what? For another 30 to 50 years of mostly getting by, hopefully, while someone else gets rich off of my work? A coworker is making now what they were making the year I was born, so in 30 years I may still be making $14.00. If I’m not doing it at this job, it’s not like any other “better job” would offer me another option. My supervisor was kind enough to tell us permanent hires that they’re always watching us; it’s like every day is an interview. She said it very sweetly, she’s very sweet, but the very idea of 40+ hours worth of interview each week is rather exhausting. She’s right, though. There’s no such thing as getting a job and being sure to keep it as long as you don’t do anything really, truly heinous.

I have achieved success. I have a job that will almost pay my bills and firing me out of hand is slightly harder than when I was a temp. I have health insurance whose deductible is only two weeks worth of pay before it kicks in (that’s the pay before I cover silly things like food and rent). I have the opportunity to reach up into middle management.

Could someone remind me why I’m playing this game again? I’ve forgotten.

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