Contrary to popular belief, the typical worker in a fast food restaurant is not a teenager working part-time for extra spending money, but a 29 year-old woman. Twenty-two percent of such workers have children and more than fifty percent rely on some form of public assistance to supplement their wages. In fact, hundreds of thousands of other North Carolinians—including home healthcare workers, early childhood educators, hospital workers, housecleaners, janitors, retail associates, farmworkers, and even adjunct professors—also earn a poverty-level wage, or close to it, with the state’s minimum wage, following that of the nation, set at $7.25 per hour.
According to a report by the National Employment Law Project, high and middle-wage jobs have declined during the economic recovery and “employment gains have been concentrated in lower-wage occupations, [growing] 2.7 times as fast as mid-wage and higher-wage occupations.” As the New York Times notes, there are now nearly 25 million workers in the United States making less than $10.10 an hour. These men and women are forced to maneuver through unpredictable hours, on-call work schedules, poor working conditions, and low pay, “wreaking havoc on everyday routines” and workers’ abilities to make ends meet.
TRYING TO GET BY: [Not] Making Ends Meet In Our Low-wage Economy is a multimedia documentary project produced by students at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The project shares stories and analysis about the men and women who work in low-wage jobs, labor organizers, business owners, advocates, economists, and labor historians. Their stories give voice to: the daily challenges men and women working low-wage jobs face in and outside of the workplace; how rapid growth in the low-wage job market is widening the inequality gap and diminishing opportunities to attain financial stability; and the organizing and advocacy efforts in North Carolina that are demanding higher wages, better schedules, and greater dignity in the workplace.
Caption: Top Left, an Early Childhood Educator works with students in a Transitional Kindergarten class in Greensboro, NC. Bottom Right, a woman who works in Home Healthcare bonds with one of her patients.