Betty, I have been out of work since my entire department was laid
off two years ago (outsourced). The best I have been able to come up
with is a part-time job that over the past year has amounted to a
total of 800 hours. Prior to June of 2004 I had no job whatsoever,
and I’ve made less than $5k in the year since then.
In short, there is not somewhere else I can work to make my living.
I wish there were!
Furthermore, since I recently broke down and applied for foodstamps,
I CANNOT quit this job (or any other I am currently working) without
having my application for food stamps denied (for having
"voluntarily reduced" my work hours.)
However, I do have an appointment at the nearby nearly-free-clinic
to see if I can get “permission” to quit this job. I don’t know if
I’ll get it - I have been avoiding going to this job (its a second
part-time job I started working at about the beginning of June) for
the past week, so my most obvious symptoms have improved. I guess
I’ll forego the food stamps if I can’t get the doctor’s excuse, but
I’ve got to tell you, going hungry is hard. I’m lucky enough to
have friends who will feed me, and for the past couple of months I’ve
actually had to rely on this sort of help on more occassions than I
care to think about.
People really do work under these kinds of conditions because the
alternative is quite literally starvation.
And don’t think that OSHA is any help at all. There’s a factory
here that produces weapons-related products for the military. I know
a woman who quit there after she started experiencing multiple
health-related problems, including bleeding from the ears. They
were working in an area where antifreeze and other chemicals were
being sprayed into the air in a fine mist. There was no protective
gear provided to the employees. No discussion of or education about
safety procedures. In fact, she had to sneak the product labels out
to a local university to even find out what they were working with.
Highly toxic stuff, it turns out. She did call OSHA. They sent an
inspector. The inspector had coffee with management and left
without ever setting foot on the factory floor. You do know that
surprise inspections have to be scheduled with the company being
inspected now, right? And that OSHA has no way to force their way in
to inspect anything if the company doesn’t want them to?
She quit 2 years ago and is still unemployed. Her boyfriend still
works there and now requires an inhaler to breathe. Nobody cares,
Betty. Or they call you a liar when you report this type of thing
(I had someone from this list e-mail me privately and suggest I was
lying about my situation). Or they’re so afraid they’ll be
unemployed too, they just keep quiet and pray they won’t be the next
to succumb - to ill health, unemployment, or death.
It’s not a question of “making a few dollars” so much as it is a
question quite literally of survival. Worries about future health
pale in comparison to the option that would destroy your ability to
feed your kids and keep a roof over their heads today.
PS - remember that the unemployment rate is a lie. As soon as I
dropped off the unemployment rolls - after 6 months - I was no
longer counted as unemployed. Yet I was completely unemployed for
another 6 months, then I was working a big 13 hours a week. There
are far more of us who have been unemployed for a year or more than
are currently on the unemployment rolls.