The working poor and the concentration of wealth
Title: The Working Poor - They are the forgotten ones unemployment numbers don't track
Source: Chicago Tribune
Date: April 25, 2004
From the article:
- The food line begins to form during the sunrise chill, more than two hours before the metal gates to the Care United Methodist Outreach pantry open.
Hundreds of people like Theresa Ware arrive early because they fear the boxes of food stacked in neat rows will be gone by the time they push their rusty grocery carts to the head of the hours-long line. Ware keeps an eye on her watch because she can't afford to be late for work, not even if the reason is to pick up food.
"This is a have-to case for us. It's humiliating," said Ware, 49, who makes $7.50 an hour working the afternoon shift at a nursing home. This recent visit was one of two food pantry stops she and her unemployed husband, Rocky, make every month.
"We shouldn't have to do this," she said.
Theresa and Rocky Ware toil in the ranks of the working poor, a growing category of millions of Americans who play by the rules of the working world and still can't make ends meet.
- The surge in food demand is fueled by several forces--job losses, expired unemployment benefits, soaring health-care and housing costs, and the inability of many people to find jobs that match the income and benefits of the jobs they lost.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank, reported recently that 43 million people are living in low-income working families with children.
- "This is not just a function of unemployment. A larger percentage of Americans are working poor, and the numbers have been growing for nine years," said Robert Forney, CEO of America's Second Harvest. "This could be the low-water mark for the economy, but for a whole lot of Americans--40 million of them--the option of [earning] a living wage and benefits? Forget it."
- Although the national economy shows fitful statistical signs of recovery, the data do not take into account that declining numbers of employers offer health insurance and many new jobs pay the minimum wage, $5.15 an hour.
Danny Palmer, who lives in the Ohio River village of Cheshire, lost his $20-an-hour welding job and now works at Wal-Mart for $5.95 an hour. Insurance coverage he got as part of a severance package from his former employer runs out next month. He has no health coverage with Wal-Mart.
Melissa Barringer holds three part-time jobs to augment the income she and her husband, Brian, a laborer, earn to support themselves and their three teenage children. Last year, their combined income was $18,000.