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I bet there's some competition for those dish-washer jobs: If you believe the article, he's being paid more than minimum wage since he's netting $7.40/hour after FICA and other taxes.

Why is he only working 27 hours/week? If he's serious about raising himself out of poverty, finding another part-time job would seem to be a priority.




He may be working more than 27 hours a week, his employer got in trouble for clocking people out before they actually stopped working. He has to take the bus & sometimes misses the last one late at night causing him to walk home. Commuting alone could very well be his other part-time job.

It's probably not terribly easy to find another part-time job when you're a Haitian immigrant without the best English skills and not much on your resume. Even if he found another job would it conflict with his current job? Most jobs don't care if you have another job on the side, they want you there when they want you.

Also sounds like his ego/pride has taken a beating from the treatment he's received. When you live at the bottom for awhile you start feeling like you're going to be there forever. The honest truth is that many do stay at the bottom forever.

I am not sure why the food industry loves to underpay people. I think the last thing we need are lowly paid workers, with no healthcare, pressured to come in when sick making our food.


"I am not sure why the food industry loves to underpay people."

Because they can. Your boss or company would do it too if they could. Or if they're too nice, the rest of your industry would do it if they could, and then your boss or company would feel that that's just the way it is.


Cheaper, "better", faster is actually doing us quite a bit of harm in the food industry. Such as foods that are meant to look pretty but have poor flavor & nutritional value, food borne illnesses, over-consumption of unhealthy foods & factory farm pollution.


And there's the benefit of hyper cheap labor, it leaves resources available to get the avocado just right.


Not really. If the idea is to source things as cheaply as possible to get the most profit then focus is on higher yield crops, not higher quality. So ultra cheap labor + ultra high yield = more profit. It does not = better product.


Who says he's paying FICA and other taxes? I worked for the same employer (Darden Restaurants) when I was fresh out of high school, and I saw the pay stubs of the immigrant workers - they did not pay any of that. Their take home pay was their hourly rate * the number of hours worked. That was a long time ago (mid 90s), but I have no particular reason to believe anything has changed.


Sorry: I was confused by the HN title, which refers to these people as "Americans", which would imply he's a citizen.

The article doesn't make that claim. But at the same time, unless he's here on a student visa or some such, his employer is required to pay FICA taxes, AFAICT. I think that's true for Haitians with refugee status.

EDIT: I see the title has been updated. With the exception of the "Americans" issue, I liked the old title better. "Amber Waves of Green" doesn't tell you much about the link.


Just because they are required to pay FICA doesn't mean they are. Under-the-table cash payment jobs are not that uncommon particularly for laborer work done by (possibly undocumented) immigrants.


There are a lot of things businesses are required to do that they don't do. I saw the checks - Darden wasn't deducting any sort of taxes from the paychecks (yes, checks, not under the table cash payments) of the undocumented workers they employed. Maybe they showed something different to the IRS.


To be fair, I wanted to point out the term 'American' does not just apply to citizens of the USA. I'm not sure whether the Haitians consider themselves 'American' since they are not part of the main land, but they could consider themselves a part of 'the Americas' and thus 'Americans'.


Maybe they're "contractors" and it's left up to the employee to pay taxes.


That's a commonly prosecuted source of tax fraud. If someone works like an employee (how and when they do their work is dictated by a manager, etc), the IRS says they are an employee. Microsoft was famously dinged for this a few years back.


Ahh! You just enlightened me as to why my manager (I'm a contractor) hardly ever talks to us. He's maintaining a hands off non-management management style. Which is kind of OK, but surprisingly disappointing.


If the company you work for provides office space, equipment, and sets your hours, you may be able to force them to pay for half your social security tax, etc. It's a fuzzy line between employee and contractor.


"American" can be a resident, not necessarily a citizen.


Why is he only working 27 hours/week? If he's serious about raising himself out of poverty, finding another part-time job would seem to be a priority.

Maybe they won't let him work more hours per week? Many businesses do just that so they can claim the worker as "part-time" permanently and not pay for their benefits or give them leave.

As for a second part-time job, as others have mentioned, it's hard to look for work when your commute can eat up to 5 hours of your day and you don't get off work until 1AM.


I would like to politely suggest that a) finding full-time work when desperately poor is maybe not as easy as you seem to believe, especially when there are massive transportation issues at play and b) the tendency to focus immediately on what the poor could be doing better, instead of on how the rest of us could do a better job in helping them, is kind of insane (though extremely popular on the internet).

Could Maurose Frantz raise himself out of poverty if he just pulled a little harder on them faithful ol' bootstraps? Maybe! You'll never know, of course, since you don't know his actual situation and have almost certainly never known anything like it, but your go-to move of imagining that this is the case--that it's basically 'his fault' he's poor--is definitely a good way to calm your conscience. We all sleep better when we're convinced the world is just.

Maybe you've gathered from my tone that I don't think this is exactly the smartest way to go about fixing America's problem with poverty.


I think you're making an awful lot of assumptions about my point of view from my merely pointing out that nobody, no matter what government programs are available, is going to raise him or herself out of poverty working 27 hours a week.

And seriously: The article doesn't tell us, but we can assume he's a first or second generation immigrant from Haiti, a place of truly grinding poverty. "We" have already given him an absolutely tremendous hand up by giving his family a chance to be here. We could easily deal with the "problem" of poverty like Frantz's if we simply didn't let Haitian refugees and other extremely poor individuals migrate here. But I think it's for the best that we do offer that opportunity when we can.


His immigration status is a red herring in this whole ordeal. Everyone in the USA is descended from an immigrant or perhaps the native people that the USA crushed when it was setup.

Many documented US citizens live in poverty. Shall we just deport them back to the USA?


>I think you're making an awful lot of assumptions about my point of view from my merely pointing out that nobody, no matter what government programs are available, is going to raise him or herself out of poverty working 27 hours a week.

Actually people have raised themselves out of poverty by working far less. IIRC, one guy in the article, just chanced upon Jezz Bezos and invested a small sum in Amazon.

That said, there are people unable to work themselves out of poverty even by working more than 40+ hours per week. Try talking with people working on your nearest Walmart for example, for some insight. Those kinds of salaries are spent as soon as they are received, in gas, rent, utility bills, foods, the kids, etc, rarely leaving anything to pursue something more, enroll in some educational program, etc.

Plus, people working 50+ hours a week in some office job, a lot of times slack, browse the web, gossip around the water cooler, and such, that in the end their productive time ends less (and much much easier on their body and mind) than a guy working 27 hours a week in a restaurant kitchen, which could be a no-breaks, work constantly, hell.


> He invested all the money he had on hand—$45,000 cash

Not a good example for "raising oneself out of poverty"

> His parents made good money in the pillow trade, and after college he set up a few okay businesses

That is not poverty.


It is not "kind of insane", just selfish and self-righteous and evil (in the traditional sense of the word).


>Why is he only working 27 hours/week? If he's serious about raising himself out of poverty, finding another part-time job would seem to be a priority.

Have you accounted for the commuting time? Like the bus that eats away 2 hours every day, and that he sometimes he has to wait for 3 hours?

Plus, nobody raised himself out of poverty by getting multiple part-time, bad-paid jobs. The way to do it is to get a better paying job.

Also: those 27 hours, are they regular, or the boss can reschedule him as he pleases (as often happens)?

This book is an eye opener of how people doing these jobs get by:

http://www.amazon.com/Nickel-Dimed-Not-Getting-America/dp/08...

(the journalist forfeited her money et al, and worked and lived as a minimum wage employee for a year or so, in order to write the book).


Also, simply by showing up to work on time and not being irresponsible, the author of that book had multiple opportunities to improve her situation (e.g., her managers offered her promotions, etc). She turned them all down since she wasn't aiming to write a "how to lift yourself out of poverty" book.

See also the book "Scratch Beginnings", about how a guy started with only $25 and got himself into a stable financial situation (e.g., apt, pickup truck, $5k in savings) in only 10 months with only hard work.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061714275/ref=as_li_ss_tl?...


Both are anecdotes. I would question if Mr. Frantz would have found himself in the same situation as the author of Nickled and Dimed, perhaps even just based off of the fact that he has black skin he may not have been offered a job or promotions.

As explained in the article, Mr. Frantz has been promised promotion many times only for the company to renege. Is this because he does a poor job? I can't really say. It sounds like he is at least somewhat ambitious in getting ahead. Also it sounds like his employer isn't above being unscrupulous.

I've also found myself moving up the chain only to suddenly have the position eliminated and demoted further back down the chain. One job I worked at, getting a promotion was the first step to getting fired what with how often they fired managers. In some cases it's better to keep your head down, but it all depends on the situation. I think it's a bit of a fairy tale to say you'll start in the mailroom and end up an executive in 20 years by "working hard". Does it happen still? Probably, but rarely.


Could you give more details of these multiple opportunities where "her managers offered her promotions, etc."? I don't have a copy of the book myself so can't check, but looking around on the web it sure doesn't look as if that's the case.


I read it a while back, and don't have it on hand. The one thing I'm quite sure of is that she had the opportunity to work at walmart or another store which paid more - she chose walmart.

My guess is that criticizing some local supermarket (unknown outside of portland or wherever it was) wasn't as sexy as criticizing big evil Walmart.


>My guess is that criticizing some local supermarket (unknown outside of portland or wherever it was) wasn't as sexy as criticizing big evil Walmart.

Your guess is wrong. From the online book synopsis:

Ehrenreich is eventually hired by both Wal-Mart and Menards (a large-box building supply retailer), passing both the personality and drug tests and enduring their respective new-employee orientations. After discovering that Menards not only back stepped on the initial starting wage of $10 per hour but would demand 11-hour shifts, Ehrenreich opted to accept the Wal-Mart position, despite its lower wage scale.


>Also, simply by showing up to work on time and not being irresponsible, the author of that book had multiple opportunities to improve her situation (e.g., her managers offered her promotions

Yes, and by also being white AND highly educated AND not having a family or people dependent on her AND not having a history of abuse and poverty to NOT draw strength from. Which was hardly the case for most of the other employees.

Not that I remember those cases for "promotion" in the book.




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