“Low Pay Is Not Ok”

After watching the documentary “Ten Dollars an Hour,” I felt overwhelmingly disgusted by our world today. No one should have to work so hard for so little money! I am a server who makes $2.13 an hour, plus tips; most people either aren’t educated about this or they just don’t care. I definitely understood the customer service aspects of work that we discussed in class. We always have to act like “happy slaves” who are respectable and love to please. I could not imagine if I had to live off of the money I make $2.13 an hour plus tips for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, many American’s are in situations where they are living off of these types of wages. What disappointed me most about the film was the fact that the “House Mom” (who only gave her family “recipes” and ordered the food) got paid $30,000 a year PLUS she has free living space, no bills, has INSURANCE AND BENEFITS, and gets reimbursement for gas for her truck. WHAT??? And don’t forget, the House Mom is also in charge of hiring and firing. If she thought you had a bad attitude, you were gone! While the House Mom is “busy” doing her “work,” Leasse is literally slaving away for long hours in the kitchen. Then House Mom sits around and eats what Leasse cooks! Leasse’s annual income was only $18,000 a year.  I was absolutely appalled. After working for years, Leasse didn’t even get offered insurance or benefits, which the House Mom already had. In order to give the 4 full time kitchen staff members annual health insurance, it would cost $4,000 a year ($2,400 for Leasse). The House Corporation for the fraternity takes in $700,000 a year. Why would they not give their employees the benefits they deserve? It would not hurt them at all! This documentary opened my eyes to the fact that this is happening more than most of us know.

The short clip we watched in class about Nancy, the woman working at McDonald’s, was also an eye-opener. The “help-line” told her to apply for federal programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. After seeing the video, I signed the petition at LowPayIsNotOk.org. Their website states that McDonald’s makes $5.5 billion in profits and that more than half of fast-food employees’ families are on public assistance and cost taxpayers $7 billion year! Corporations like this do not care about their employees; they are only worried about what profit they will make! They are constantly moving to where they can find the cheapest labor so that they can receive the largest profit. Most workers are unable to demand benefits, raises, and better working conditions because they cannot afford to be let go. I have read many comments under articles about the McDonald’s helpline video and most people who disagree with fast-food workers getting paid more use the excuse that they “are lazy and need to work hard to get somewhere.” In my opinion, if they are barely surviving from their wages and have to use federal aid programs, how are they supposed to move ahead in life and find a better job or become more qualified by getting more education? Education costs money that these people do not have! I can see how many of them feel stuck and hopeless. If corporations like McDonald’s and the House Corporation for the Sigma Nu Fraternity would give their employees a chance, they could possibly make a huge difference in the world as well has have better lives for their families. AND not to mention the $7 billion dollars we are paying for them to be on government aid would significantly drop. The only downside is that the corporations wouldn’t be making as much money as they are now. Boo hoo.

$7.25 an hour

As a teenager, I worked for Subway. The Subway was located in Olive Branch, Mississippi. Mississippi is still one of the top racist states in the United States. Minimum wage was $7.25 during my time working for Subway. Race, labor, gender, and region had a lot of affect on my experience while working there. I was the only male to be hired during my time there. That was shocking to me because the owners were both (white) males and they hired only black women. All of the hourly workers were people of color and the only supervisor of the store was white. She was an older white woman too. She carried herself as if she grew up in the era when racism was at its peak in Mississippi. She never did any of the hard labor such as mopping, washing dishes, fixing the food, or food preparation. I understand that some of those things weren’t part of her job title but she never tried to assist neither when we were busy. During the busiest parts of the day, she would literally watch all of the hourly workers work and purposely take an hour break. From my understanding,  while working a part time job, a break does not exist. The hourly workers kept the store in great condition. Me and my past co-workers went far and beyond to the store running smoothly. We never received any credit. Our supervisor would get the credit and never glorify our success in the store.

At the time, minimum wage was $7.25. I was working for a couple of owners who control if that pay rate changed or not. I worked for Subway for an entire year and never saw a pay raise. My co-workers always said, ” John and Troy love giving raises”. I always made production and was on time for work everyday. I was the top performer in the store numerous times. I even worked seven days a week and covered for my co-workers whenever they were unavailable to work. I never received a raise. I think I never received a raise because I never gained a strong relationship between the two owners. One day one the owners asked me, “why aren’t you smiling”? I didn’t have a response because it had been a long day and we were very busy.  That situation was similar to Lisa and Janis, from $1o an hour, and how she had to be customer friendly to get a raise.

Due to the region that I worked in, I understood why most of those things occurred. In my opinion, It was similar to labor houses. The two white male bosses were the masters, the supervisor was the mistress of them both, and we were the workers. I’m not trying to depict them as being racist but this may have been the way they were raised. Also, I worked under these conditions for $7.25 an hour. I never looked at their system of employment and how they ran their store as an issue until this semester. It has been an eye opener.

Full Time Worker, Part Time Pay

In today’s society, there is a struggle for people to survive earning minimum wage. The employee could possibly be making $10 an hour, but in reality that is not sufficient for someone with a family to provide for. Their family will struggle because the sole provider of their household does not earn a living wage. A living wage is a heavily discussed topic, but it is so hard to grasp what actually can be an acceptable amount. Working full time and still being needing government assistance is pathetic. It also is hard and stressful on the employee. The constant pressure of worrying which bill can withstand getting paid a certain month should not be on a full time employees mind. Money is not the most important thing in the world, but it is necessary. With a shortage of money, there will  be things lacking that you need, but unfortunately will not be able to purchase. It is a shame that the labor worked does not equal nor match the time and effort or the ultimate end result, which is the pay. I am slowly realizing that history is repeating itself. As a nation we are suffering because our fellow citizens are suffering. In the mid to late 1900s, companies had factories and the workforce of the factories was flourishing. People filled the factories everyday for work, but that was short lived because of the working conditions and low pay. The workers began to get fed up with the long hours and the low pay, which led to strikes. The companies soon moved from the Midwest to the South, but the workers were broke and now out of work. This was labeled as the deindustrialization era. In my opinion, this is what America is facing now. People are fed up, but everyone is afraid to stand up for what they deserve because they ultimately can not afford not to work. Corporations make it hard to put a living wage into effect because of their laws, rights, and rules. Working hard, full time and not being able to live comfortably and support your family is unfair, especially with this being the land of the free. Struggling financially is a depressing weight to carry, it gets heavier because this is a long term deal for most. Although there are many people not earning a living wage in the South, this is an issue all over the United States. Education is super important these days. The higher your education level, the better chance you have at earning more money. Setting a specific amount for a living wage is just a factor in this ongoing struggle. People are not receiving benefits either. Not only do they not have enough for food, clothes, and bills, they can not go to the doctor for yearly check-ups. Also, seeing that race, gender, and class still affects people and job priority. In the documentary 10 Dollars an Hour, the house mother (Janis)  received over $30,000 a year. She was a white woman, and the cook (Lisa) received $18,000. She is a black woman. Every situation is not racist, but when things are unfair, race, class, and gender are factored into the equation.   Personally, I take many things for granted. Learning how others live and witnessing what they go through on a daily basis is sad. It is eye opening to be appreciative and aware that a change needs to occur…soon.

My grandfather’s story

As a child, I grew up having the opportunity to hear my grandfather’s stories. I must say that at that age, I could not fully grasp the significance of what my grandfather was sharing. However, it was not until years later, after he died, that I started to understand what he was telling me.

My grandfather was originally from Batesville Mississippi in a time where racism, inequalities, and injustice were the norm. He was the oldest of six children. I can recall and hearing stories about how his parents were hard workers, and always tried to do their best for their children. His parents were sharecroppers. I can remember him telling me that the white man who owned the land was often harsh and unfair. He described how his parents got sick of the white land owner accusing his family of not paying their money, which prompted them to pack up their family and move to Memphis.

My grandfather described how moving to Memphis allowed his parents to become homeowners, which was a very big deal given their past living conditions in Mississippi. He described his parents’ feelings, as well as his feelings of being free and more importantly having their own.

In addition, my grandfather often talked about his military days. He was in the PFC Army, and fought in World War II. My grandfather had to work side-by-side White Men, even though whites treated his race wrong. He described this as a very complicated task, but he did what he had to do. He talked about how he came home and married my grandmother, bought his first house, and had his six children.

He mentioned frequently, dealing with white men harassing him. My grandfather described feeling so much hatred and heartache. He emphasized how he wanted things to be different for his children and grandchildren. He claimed that is why he was so hard on his children. He wanted them to be independent people. He did not want them to depend on no one, especially not the white man. My grandfather wanted fairness and equality for everyone. He instilled to his children that they would experience racism through out thei lives. He emphasized education and good jobs.

I believe my grandfather told me those various stories as learning tools. He wanted to show that becoming independence is a great factor to have. He showed that despite his feelings or attitudes, he did not let those affect his job or mission. More importantly, my grandfather allowed his experience shape his parenting skills. He described how living in the south helped him become the person he was. I believe his stories helped me understand how his past helped shape my family today. Overall, my grandfather was a great man, who did not let his struggles tear him down. His past has allowed me to understand the south and understand my family’s attitude.


Surviving on 10 an Hour

Watching the documentary about the cook working for $10.00 an hour really opened my eyes to how hard it is for some Americans. Several people, that do in fact work hard, work for less than 10.00 an hour. With minimum wage currently at 7.25 an hour, it is safe to assume that several people work for that. While in college, I have worked some jobs here and there for minimum wage, and I had the mindset that it would be like working for little to no money. But once the pay checks started coming in, I was wrong. I thought this isn’t so bad, I could survive off this. I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about with people saying the “living wage” was around $11 and something. I kept thinking I could easily survive off of $8.00 an hour if I had too.

The fact of the matter was until seeing this documentary, I was blind. Granted I still do believe that I could survive off of minimum wage if I had to, but survive is all I could do. For some reason, blame it on my youth I guess, I had completely forgot about retirement. It wasn’t until I seen someone older working day after day for minimum wage while not receiving retirement benefits that it hit me. Sure I could survive on minimum wage, but when I hit retirement age, and got old enough I couldn’t work anymore, I would be in the crapper.

It is kind of sad that America, the land of opportunity, doesn’t have a better system in place than this. The South, particularly, is known for selling its labor for cheap. When in the end, we are all humans; it would seem to me that we would take better care of each other than we currently do. We care more about having a little extra money in our pocket than we do if our neighbor can barely afford to eat. The companies will do everything in their power to keep labor costs at a minimum. If labor in the U.S. gets too expensive, they will simply move overseas to another country where than an exploit its workers for cheap labor. This cause labor wages to stay low in the U.S.  For example, if a group of workers go on strike for higher paying wages, the companies will simply go out and hire minorities for an even lower wage. Then once the previous workers start going hungry, they will bring them back for sometimes an even lower wage than they were getting paid when they went on strike, this is very common in the south, where there are high populations of minorities willing to work for cheap.

The “simple” solution to this would be to raise minimum wage. However, this could potentially devastate the south. The southern economy operates on selling its cheap labor. If minimum wage was raised, this could eliminate one of the incentives to companies staying in the south. It could and probably would have negative effects on America in general as even more companies would move overseas. Labor is already cheaper overseas, if America raised its minimum wage, it would only push more companies to move their factories overseas. It is going to take both the American corporations and American people to come together to agree to stay operating in the U.S. while also paying its employees a fair wage. Until this happens, things will only get worse.

Ten dollars an hour, Sigma Nu

Ten dollars an hour, Sigma Nu

This clip was about a lady name Lisa who worked for ten dollars an hour. She worked 6-6:30 three days out of the week and 9-2:30 two days a week. There was plenty of discrimination going on within this Sigma Nu house. The house mom ran the entire show. She planned the menu, ordered the food, and oversaw the workers. Lisa and the other cook worked five days a week, cooked and prepared three meals a day all from scratch. Lisa was actually hurting from the pay raise when the house mother cut another worker from the schedule. The house worker receives benefits and insurance when she does not do any work yet her workers receive none of that. Lisa was a hard worker and loved to please the Sigma Nu boys. These ties back into the south due to slavery. The slaves were always hard-working, happy, and loyal to their slave owner because he never asked the slaves how they felt. He did not care.

Same as with the University of Memphis workers not even making ten dollars an hour and even though they are custodial workers, they still are going above and beyond the role of custodian. These custodian workers clean buildings by themselves and are either old or young. I always see the same old women working in the UC cleaning trays, mopping, sweeping, and taking out the trash as if their age doesn’t qualify them to cashier or serve guests. I feel as though they can do it as well. This is really bothering me because I used to work for  McDonald’s and they claim to be an equal opportunity employer when in reality, they would not hire an older person for the simple fact that they did not want them to come in running the show. In other words, they did not want the older person stealing the respect from them and their role of manager or GM within the McDonald’s corporation. I remember my GM (whom is no longer employed through McDonald’s) told an older woman that she was overqualified in her face and when she left he told his swing shift manager he did not need her telling him what to do.

He sent her to another location and there she was hired. It’s sad that our own people want to keep us oppressed and enslaved under them. I am now hearing that McDonald’s will start paying people $15 an hour.  If that is to happen I will reapply with them. Every time I visit to order my meals I see the same people who have been there years on end and have yet to move to 8.00 an hour. I just spoke to my old co-worker yesterday and she was there in the ninth grade now she has graduated from high school and still is not making 8.00 an hour. She is having to work McDonald’s and Target at the same time because she is trying to go to college and has no help. It’s a shame that people can work a job for quite some time and still see no difference in change.

Great Food, but Too Many Obese People!

America has the most obese people in the world. The South is known for its delicious food but at the same time the negative part about it is that the obesity rate is the highest. Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee are leading the nation’s top 3 in number of most obese people. What are the factors that make such a huge difference between the South and the North and what can people do about it?

I cannot talk about the South or America in general without comparing it to other countries in the world, and mostly to my home country Estonia. Growing up in Estonia, main things I heard about America was that there are a lot of fat people, so many McDonald’s restaurants, and everything is big in there. As a child or a teenager my friends and I were jealous because we did not have no McDonald’s or any other type of fast food restaurant in my home town. We had to go to capital city to get some burgers and fries. For us it was like a special treatment when we ate some burgers. All we ate was homemade and home grown food. I never went out to a restaurant to eat with my family. We all ate together at home.  Even now in 2013, you do not find fast food restaurants in every corner of a street. To be honest, people do not even like that food, plus it is more expensive than healthy food. Now, comparing this situation with my 5 year experience in America and mostly in Memphis, I can tell that the stories about America having a lot of fat people and many fast food place is so true.  Honestly, it is ridiculous!

There are obviously reasons why the South has more obese people. Lower incomes make people buy cheaper food. Fast food is cheap in America and it is accessible 24hours. Isn’t it wonderful? Whenever you get hungry you can get some food at any time of the day and only for 1 dollar? That sounds like great deal..BUT I don’t think that way anymore. I used to think it is awesome to go to grocery store at midnight and get whatever I wanted until I started gaining weight. Then I realized it is not fun at all. There is no grocery store in the whole country that is open 24hrs in Estonia. If you are hungry and have nothing to eat then you better wait until the morning. I believe it is great! Nobody should be eating at midnight anyway. That’s one of the reasons why there are many people who are overweight. Moreover, the portions are so much bigger. People will not leave the restaurant until they are so stuffed that they cannot even breathe anymore. Of course, sometimes, I do it as well. I love to eat, I am an athlete, I love food in general, but it is definitely not a good idea to have big portions of food every day.

Another very important part about why the South has more obese people is the lack of physical activity. People do not exercise enough. You have to have a car to get around. When I first came here, I couldn’t believe that Memphis does not have a well-organized public transportation system. Also, I barely see people walking or riding a bicycle on the streets. I always felt so uncomfortable when I walked somewhere, I felt like people think I am crazy. In Europe people think you are crazy if you drive a car everywhere.

I believe that the obesity in the South and in America is a huge issue. Healthy food should not cost more than unhealthy one. Moreover, there has to be more physical activities in elementary and high schools. Parents have to pay attention to their children and promote healthy lifestyle in order to live longer. Grocery stores should not be open 24 hrs and there is no need for McDonald’s in every corner of a street. Also, the city of Memphis should definitely fix the sidewalks and promote walking and riding a bicycle more than they do right now!

Photo essay

Do We Live In A Post-Racial South?

Most people do not know that we do not live in a post racial south, some do. We can all tell that racism is still embedded in the south by the different aspects of it. The number one thing in the south is the different stereotypes. There are multiple stereotypes floating around towards different races. People hear stereotypes so much they began to believe it is true. These stereotypes are deeply embedded into people minds to the point where they think it is natural. On the other hand, it is just made to make a group of people look bad when it is really the group who is making the stereotypes up. Take a look at Latinos, the stereotypes associated with them is that they are all abusing drugs. According to Duke University, “Whites are more likely to abuse drugs and Latinos are almost at the bottom of the percentages right above the Asians.” Actually, they are really known for selling drugs not abusing them. Another racist concept that interests me is the public housing. According to the University Of Dayton School Of Law, “Most African-American public housing residents continue to live in extremely minority neighborhoods. These communities tend to be further differentiated by income.” Subprime loans are five times more likely in black neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods. The different school systems show a little racism as well. According to Jean Anyon, “In the working-class schools, work is following the steps of procedure. The procedure is usually mechanical, involving rote behavior and very little decision make or choice. The teachers rarely explain why the work is being assigned, how it might connect to other assignments, or what the idea is that lies behind the procedure. The children are usually told to copy the steps as notes.” I grew up in a high school like that. We never wrote papers, I wrote one paper during all of my high school years. It’s like we were taught something just to learn it for the test, after the test everything were forgotten. Something I do remember the most is how we were always taught to listen to higher authorities. I was always taught to never over step your boundaries; in other words, don’t think outside of the box. According to Jean Anyon, “In the affluent professional school, work is creative activity carried out independently. The students are continually asked to express and apply ideas and concepts. Work involves individual thought and expressiveness, expansion and illustration of ideas, and choice of appropriate method and material. I still think slavery exist as well, just modern day slavery. You may not see physical slavery but there is definitely a lot of institutional slavery going on.

Working Harder For Less

Although, I walked in class ten minutes into a movie that the Professor was presenting to the class; I found it to be very disturbing the things that employers would do to make their workers feel less than human when paying only minimum wage. Growing up my mother made it seem easy being a single mother of four children. My family had all of the necessities that were needed, as well as enough spending money to go out to eat every Friday night. My family was able to survive comfortably off of one income alone. I understand that the cost of living has risen since the nineties; what I do not understand is how employers still manage to pay their employee wages that are not a big difference from the wages of the nineties.  Now that  I am in the working world it has made me aware of the fact that workers are seen as nothing more than servants that should always be grateful and never question the environment that the employers has created. As of today I am unsure about how to feel about the raises I have recieved over the years. When raises are given it generally means more money on paper but less money in the bank. The more a person makes the more taxes that the government will deduct from the individuals income. It has really gotten to the point where it is nearly impossible for the working class to prosper financially. From the statics shown the upcoming generation will be less likely to receive a college education, meaning that the hope that I once had for the future generation is more likely to only a dream that will never come true. The way that society to structured there will soon be only room for the rich and the poor, there will not be a middle man involved amongst the classes. As of today I have become a big advocate for everyone finding the richest person they can make their sugar mommy/ sugar daddy and make a come up based on their come ups; it has been done for years so what better time to do it than when minimum wage is not enough to survive. Since the age of sixteen I have worked in order to be able to provide myself with the things that I need. I have a front row seat to the reality of working  twice as hard every week to still only have just enough money to pay the bills and no money to put towards savings in case of an emergency. I believe the banks created savings accounts only to sit back and laugh at the fact that most people will never make enough money to put anything towards it. Since recently I have become some what obsessed with steering myself in the direction of success; I am going to keep furthering my education until Sallie May cuts me off. The times are getting harder and the workers are working hard to only have nothing to show for it but a paycheck that is not enough to pay the rent in full.