They are waitresses, department store clerks, and fast-food workers. They clean office bathrooms and airplane cabins, care for the elderly, and serve hors d’oeuvres at high-end fund-raisers. One in five workers in the state, the majority of them over 25, make $12 an hour or less.
As employers squeeze costs, these low-wage earners frequently can only get part-time work without benefits, some with irregular schedules that make second jobs and child care arrangements difficult. They have no protections from having hours cut and they receive no severance pay if they are let go without warning.
Many don’t have cars, making it hard to get to work when public transportation isn’t running. Those who have cellphones can’t always afford minutes, so employers struggle to reach them. Few have college degrees.
For workers in this precarious position, there is a thin line between survival and catastrophe, and one unexpected event — an illness, a rent increase, a layoff — can be devastating.
Increasingly, they are speaking up — working with union organizers, demonstrating for higher wages.
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