When Your Paycheck Is What Keeps You From Achieving Your Goals

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I often post “must-read longreads” on my Twitter/Tumblr feeds, and today I’m sharing one with all of you: if you have time this afternoon, take 10 minutes to read Anne Hull’s For Hardee’s Workers, It’s Not a Parable, It’s a Job at the Washington Post.

This is an incredible piece. Not just because Hull illustrates how difficult it is for low-income fast food workers to follow well-meaning politicians’ advice to “just work and educate yourself into a better career!” but because of the detail she shares about each of the workers she profiles:

Saturday is Brandi’s day off. She was out running errands when she started worrying that the crew at work might be getting slammed. She had six kids in the car — her four and her husband Luke’s two — but decided to stop at Hardee’s anyway, saying she wouldn’t be long. A half-hour later, Luke and the kids are still waiting in the parking lot when Brandi dashes out to say that Mommy might be a while.

Mommy earns around $20,000 a year as a full-time shift leader at Hardee’s. She has a low tolerance for laziness and tardiness—and employees calling in with lame excuses. Menstrual cycles, a broken truck, general fatigue, a lack of transportation, Brandi can detect malingerers. Lately, the “I don’t have a ride to work” excuse has cut down since Brandi started responding with, “I’ll be there in five minutes.”

The people Hull profiles want to get better jobs, or better-paying jobs, but they also want to do their Hardee’s jobs well. They have plans and goals for their lives, like having a wedding by a lake or saving enough money to move to a city that might have more job opportunities. The thing that consistently gets in the way is Hardee’s low wages. That is the mitigating factor on their dreams.

It’s a great piece, and I hope you get a chance to read it.

Photo credit: Paul Sableman

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