Sunday, July 01, 2007

Movie Review: Waging a Living

Waging a Living is a documentary about three years in the lives of four low-wage workers in California, New York, and New Jersey. Although their struggles involve different jobs, I did note some similarities:

a. Workers with access to unions (the security guard and nursing assistant) had better situations in terms of wages, stability, and job placement than those that did not (the waitress and supervisor in teen delinquent facility).

b. Workers who were not in relationships were much worse off trying to make it on only their incomes than those in relationships.

c. Education seemed to provide a way out for just about each person whether it was a class in using MS Word or an AA degree from the local community college.

d. Often a raise was the worst thing in the world. It bumped workers off of public benefits ($450 more a month in wages resulted in $600 loss in critical benefits).

e. With one exception, no one had health insurance except from Medicaid. This destroyed any hope these workers had of saving money because someone always got sick, and there was never enough money to pay for full treatment. 18,000 people die from lack of health insurance in the United States each year.

f. Boy, there were a lot of kids. This is coming from the child-free reviewer, but boy, those families had a lot of mouths to feed. My word.

g. This could be any one of us. 1 in 4 workers in the United States do not earn enough for the basics (housing, food, health insurance). One of these workers was middle class before her divorce, and post-divorce could only find a job waitressing at $2.13/hour + tips.

h. Hard work alone cannot overcome poverty. All of these people worked very hard, more than full-time, often additional hours in school, and all of them were in a system that will not let them escape poverty through work alone.