- Posted September 19, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
First Person: Your essays
Who is the "Low-Wage Worker"?
'Many of my neighbors share the belief that the lazy and criminals receive public assistance and public assistance should be eliminated. My mother and sister depend on Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance. Growing up, we were poor. I depended on the free/reduced lunch program at school. I had to work at 17 to help support my family. I had to pay rent and my share of utilities and groceries. We were far from lazy. We had to work hard.'
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
Cumming, Georgia is a suburb in Metro Atlanta. It has been experiencing exponential growth due to good schools and low taxes, and simply a population boom. My neighborhood is Live, Work, Play community—new urbanism, mixed-use development. It is considered an affluent area.
Today, someone in my neighborhood posted a request for neighbors to respond to the traffic issue in our area. While I agree that there is a traffic issue, I support impact fees to developers and better coordination to the county’s infrastructure—transportation, education, environmental impact, etc.—Typical Smart Growth principles.
Ok, enough preface…One neighbor mentioned his concerns. Here is an exact quote. “The city board warned everyone that multi-lane roads would bring in mass transit, and multi-family units (apartments), and eventually MARTA [regional transit] and low-wage workers that committed a lot of crime.”
Wow…I was disturbed by this statement. I was infuriated by this statement! So, “low-wage workers” commit a lot of crime. Let’s think about that for a moment.
Everyone depends on the “low-wage worker”. Let me emphasize that again—EVERYONE depends on the “low-wage worker”! So, who are these “low-wage” workers?????
It’s my mother. Speaking to my neighbors.. you belong to a Country Club? Who cleans your locker room and bring you a fresh towel? My mother, the “low-wage worker”. She has a cognitive disability and has a mental age of a young teenager. I’m sorry she’s not “good” enough for a six-figure salary. But, she’s happy. She’s proud of her work. Who are you to judge?
Who is the “low-wage worker”? It’s my sister. That’s right! My sister has the same cognitive disability as my mother and has mental age of a young child. She works at Wal-Mart. She’s the one who gives you the number tag when you want to try on clothes. Before her work at Wal-Mart, she worked in a nursing home, filling water pitchers to those who can’t pour themselves a drink of water. They could be your elder parents or grandparents. My sister does not drive a car. She simply wants to live “normally”. Are you better than her? My sister is VERY proud of her job. And quite frankly, I’m proud that she has one. It doesn’t matter that she’s the “low-wage” worker. She’s happy and she works. Who are you to judge?
My mom and sister simply want to live. They do not, and will not, have a six-figure salary. And, I can tell you, they are not criminals!!!! They just want to live independently. They just want to live.
Who is the “low-wage worker”? It’s your teenage child. Did you forget the time when you had your first job? As teenagers, they just want extra cash to have fun. They want to live (besides in the classroom). Is your teenager a criminal?
Who is the “low-wage worker”? Let’s get to what matters to the “affluent” people. It’s your maid or house cleaner you hire to clean your house on a regular basis. Unless you pay your cleaning staff good salaries, did you think they could be “criminals”? Who are you to judge? You make the claim that “low-wage” workers commit a lot of crime, yet you have no hesitation to hire “low-wage” workers to see your personal belongings and clean them in your own home.
Who is the “low-wage worker”? It’s your lawn service that comes weekly to mow your lawn and trim your hedges. Did you do a criminal background check on these people? Oh, I bet you didn’t because you pay big salaries to those who mow your lawn.
Do you go grocery shopping? Do you get gas for your car? Who sits at your front desk answering calls? The “low-wage worker”. Who teaches your preschool children? Who is your librarian? Who’s doing your dry cleaning? Who’s your hostess at your favorite restaurant? Who’s your server? The “low-wage worker”
Now, have you done criminal background checks on every person you encounter? What makes you think you are better than the “low-wage worker”? Your life depends on the “low-wage worker”. They provide you with the services that show off your “money”. Yet, you don’t think they deserve to be here because they are “low-wage workers” who commit a lot of crime. What the f**k?
The “low-wage workers” simply want to live. They may not have the resources or the skill set to have the six-figure salary. They work hard to make you look good. Who are you to judge? Even if they had a criminal background, they simply want to live. They served their time and want to move forward. They want to live. They DESERVE to live. Let them live. All because you earn big bucks doesn’t mean they don’t want to live in an area desirable for a family. They deserve this right just like everyone else. Your “money” is displayed by the services of the “low-wage worker”. They deserve dignity and respect, no different than anyone else.
Who is the “low-wage worker”? It’s any of us. Who needs the “low-wage worker?” All of us. When you define bigotry, look at yourself in the mirror, neighbor.