This was originally going to be a post illustrating how the working class gets screwed over in the informal labor market using DH’s relative’s wife as an illustration. As you may remember, she is undergoing chemo after a successful surgery to remove cancer in her brain.
She had been working as a waitress, but she can no longer do that.
Unfortunately, she dropped out of high school to raise her ex-husband’s kids, then worked briefly as a waitress, then married DH’s cousin and helped take care of his kids from his first wife, then started having kids of her own. During the recession she tried getting a job but without a high school degree and with terrible credit, neither Walmart nor the Dollar Store were interested. Eventually she went back to waitressing and bartending.
Doubly unfortunately, a lot of this waitressing work was tips only and under the table. That’s not exactly legal, but it’s how she was able to make money. Under the table doesn’t count towards Social Security.
Most of you reading (with the exception of academics in states like Illinois which has its own pension system) have already qualified for Social Security. You worked in high school some, in college some, and then more or less steadily in respectable above-the-table jobs as an adult. You need 40 quarters, or about 10 years, of work history total to qualify.
DH’s relative’s wife is six months short of that. Because much of her work was under the table. She’ll still get the spousal credit (half her husband’s SS) if she’s alive when she’s 62, but 62 is a couple decades away. The problem is that she can’t work now and she can’t qualify for Disability Insurance. She can’t even try to get SSDI because she doesn’t have enough of a work history. (There’s SSI, but it is difficult to meet the resource limits for SSI.)
That was the news as of yesterday. I was going to write out this post and then talk about how this under-the-table thing is a way to exploit our most vulnerable workers.
Today, DH’s relative called up DH to give him the news that he’s being laid off. The state hasn’t been paying for construction projects and has stopped funding projects for state and local areas, so there’s a lot less business for the firm he works at. And, because of the amount of time he’s had to take off because of his wife’s brain cancer treatments, he was the obvious person to let go. At least they’re giving him more than 2 weeks.
Right now they have 3 teenagers at home and 1 of the older daughters with her child. The daughter has a job at the Walmart a town away.
There’s no savings. There’s lots of bills. They have terrible credit. Their house is underwater because they’ve used it as a cash account for years (and it was overvalued when they started taking “equity” out). I don’t know what they’re going to do. The relative is only 40, but years of hard working and hard living have aged him significantly. There aren’t jobs in the area (he already commutes an hour to work each day) and they’ve never moved to the city (>2 hours away) where he could get a better paying job because she’s wanted to stay close to her (abusive) family. Will they even be able to do that now?
And thank goodness (and thank Democrats) for the Medicaid expansion. There’s still a lot more chemo in their future.
It is so hard to be poor in America.