Last night, he and his girlfriend Alex worked minimum wage jobs in Columbus, Ohio, for a month. And they had a really, really hard time.
One thing that struck me was a laborer who had once had a GM job (hey, notice that GM is doing that whole "employee discount" promotion right as they are laying off 25,000 workers? Classy.) back in the 70s. He was doing a landscape job for less in 2004 than he was making at GM in 1979.
What blew me away, as someone who has been raised in a primarily small town and suburban environment, was this one man Morgan met at a homeless shelter. Here was a guy with kids, who was working 40 hours per week, and he was homeless. In Columbus, Ohio. In America.
It shouldn't be possible in America to work and still be homeless. I know I'm sounding a little Pollyanna-ish here- but honestly, the whole notion of employed people who have no means of housing escaped me somehow.
I did some research (uh, yeah, I googled the term "working homeless") and found that 44 percent (a tricky figure to get, I'm sure, but an estimated 44 percent) of homeless people actually ARE employed.
Here's the thing- I'm sure plenty of people already knew about just how many people find themselves employed but underemployed to the point where they can't afford a place to live. This blog, for me, is kind of an outlet for the revelations I make as I learn more about the world. But the more I learn, the more angry I tend to become. Especially when I learn that the minimum wage has been the same since 1997 and that every measure to raise it has been shot down in Congress but that congressmen themselves have accepted cost-of-living raises for three of the four years between 1998 and 2001.
It's particularly angering when you know who is working keeping the minimum wage at the level it currently sits. The big voice on the Right concerning minimum wage law is Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum, whose oh-so-Christian attitude toward poverty led him to endorsethis bill back in March, which technically raised the wage, but was basically a Trojan horse for workers:
The Republicans’ minimum wage proposal was offered by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who Kennedy noted has voted against raising the minimum wage 17 times in the past decade. The amendment coupled the small wage increase with a provision to end the 40-hour workweek and replace it with an 80-hour, two-week work period. That would weaken overtime protection for workers who remain eligible for overtime pay after the Bush administration gutted the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA’s) overtime protections in 2004.
Santorum’s proposal also would have denied minimum wage, overtime and equal pay protections to as many as 10 million workers by doubling from $500,000 to $1 million the annual revenue level at which businesses are required to abide by the wage provisions of the FLSA. The Republican proposal also would have nullified state protections for workers who receive tips, allowing their employers to pay them as little as $2.13 per hour. Further, Santorum’s proposal also would have weakened safety and health protections by excusing reporting violations under certain circumstances, according to the EPI.
Anyone could find themselves having to eke out a living on minimum wage. Anyone. Something drastic needs to happen here . . .