Letters: On behalf of part-time workers in the region
In follow-up to the Banner article of Jan. 4, I would like to speak out on behalf of the many people in the Bennington region and throughout Vermont who work part-time.
Most part-time work in 2014 is not a choice. Indeed, it is involuntary in nature, meaning that workers are forced to work part-time because there aren’t enough full-time jobs available.
The irony of involuntary part-time employment is that most of it is concentrated in low-wage sectors such as the food service industry, health care support services, and entry level manufacturing. Part-time employment rarely includes benefits such as health insurance and paid sick leave.
Part-time workers receive lower rates of pay, less training, and fewer opportunities for advancement. A recent policy study from the University of New Hampshire showed that involuntary part-time employment is a key factor in poverty. In 2012, one in four involuntary part-time workers lived in poverty, whereas just one in 20 full-time workers lived in poverty.
I was talking to a Bennington family today that is living the horror of involuntary part-time employment. The husband has worked full-time for 16 years for a local business that was recently bought out. In the first week of the new management, his hours were cut from 40 to 35. The next week, he was told that he would be working 30 hours per week. This resulted in the loss of eligibility for health insurance, sick days, and paid vacation time.
One month after his company was bought out, his wife’s job was cut from 30 hours per week to ten hours per week. She is currently looking for another part-time job in the fast food industry to help make ends meet. Her goal is not to "make a little extra money for the family," but to help keep a roof over the heads of herself, her husband, and their teenage son.
There are a lot of hard working people out there who would jump at the opportunity to work full-time.
The challenges workers face
Regarding striking workers fighting for higher wages: I hate when educated people say "I went to college, I should earn more, I worked hard to get where am, I deserve better pay, better benefits, more vacation time than the average Joe who barely made it through high school."
Well let’s put it in a new light (by the way I am a graduate of a very good four-year college) and I am smart enough to know -- Some people are not cut out for college, some people are not meant to go to college, does that mean that they work fewer hours than you? Think less than you? Do less than you? Sacrifice time away from family less than you? No, what it does mean is they likely work weekends, work holidays, work at stressful jobs where CEOs crush their very souls, confidence, and morale... for the whopping benefit of little more than "getting by" if, a big if, they are lucky.
At least these people are working and trying to stay off the system, a system far too stretched and abused. Granted maybe flipping burgers doesn’t warrant $15 an hour to you -- but before you judge it, try it, my friends... it sucks. I did it while in college and while working for an elderly daycare. I used to close McDonald’s and pick up ungodly things from the bathroom floors, serve grouchy customers and do it with a smile. Imagine if that is all you ever had to look forward to because your family couldn’t afford college, or you were never pushed to do so or God forbid you just weren’t college material. It is so much more palatable to work for $50, $80, $100 grand a year than work for say $10 an hour and know that you have to give up 100 hours of your life to make that $1,000 mortgage every month. So before you judge, think, people. Use your college-educated brain and think.
And another point: Kids who get out of high school and actually work, well, they are working for their money. I cannot say the same about a kid who goes to college and mooches off mom and dad for a minimum of four more years! Show some respect for that waitress, clerk, gas attendant, machinist, truck driver, logger, farmer, bartender, fireman, cop, EMT; most don’t have a college education, but where would we be without them? How can one take care of a family on $7.50 or $8 an hour? If you’re lucky, maybe you can find one for $10 an hour. It feels better to reach a double digit! But it sure goes fast! My gas tank will tell you just how much, the one for my car never mind the one for my heat! How does a family survive on that?
I can see why people abuse the system -- why wouldn’t you, if you have a lick of sense? You get the same if not more and benefits too, plus you get to be home for your kids to greet them off the bus and maybe cook a nice warm meal for them, buy them a decent outfit once in a while. I work one part time job and two per diem with a college education after having worked for 20 years running my own business. It isn’t easy. It has been humbling, and I am no longer taking anything for granted. I think hard before I buy anything now and ask myself just how many hours did I have to work, sacrifice away from my family for that item. A hard lesson learned.
Imagine if you knew this was your forever, no way out and tell me the average Joe doesn’t deserve better pay and benefits from the big companies like Walmart, McDonald’s etc. I am not talking about the mom and pop stores that are struggling, but the conglomerates that have CEOs that earn more in one year than their employees will ever earn in a lifetime.
Hoosick Falls, N.Y.
Applauds N.Y. cell phone and driving proposal
I am writing to applaud Governor Cuomo’s proposal that cell phone using drivers in New York lose their license for one year and to suggest Vermont adopt a similar law. The current epidemic of self-centered and mindless driving reveals how stupid, socially unconscious and morally impoverished so many people are. Nine people in the U.S. will be killed today by these drivers ruining forever the lives of many. Why shouldn’t these drivers be charged with murder?
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