They say good things come in small packages. The new book People Around Us is certainly a small package. It will take you around 10 minutes to read, but those 10 minutes may well change your life.
People Around Us is published by the Southwest Center for Economic Integrity, a Tucson non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of low-wage earners. Featured recently in The Progressive magazine, the book is a collection of stories from low-wage earners from across the Southwest, depicting attitudes of employers and customers alike from the point of view of the workers. People Around Us also informs the readers about employment practices that don’t make the headlines of local newspapers.
In an essay from Leonora Anne McBride, who cleaned hotel rooms for $1.25 per room. McBride writes, “I had worked weekends for six months and cleared $70.00 for 200 hours. We were not paid for the time it took to put together the cart used to carry sheets, towels, cleaning supplies and other essentials from room to room, waiting to be assigned a room or waiting for it to be inspected after the job was completed.” In pencil, below the essay, McBride adds, “I wasn’t Nickeled and Dimed - I was Pennied to death!”
People Around Us is a vivid expose of a number of industries in which people are exploited. It is the dark underbelly of Barbara Ehrenreich’s , in which Ehrenreich goes undercover working at Wal-Mart, Merry Maids, and other service industry jobs. While Ehrenreich does a great job showing how poorly low-wage earners are treated in her book, she was able to return to a professional life with a future. The authors in People Around Us may never have a future beyond what they write of.
In another eye-opening essay, Danielle Sottosanti writes, “It’s 7p.m. and I’m in the final stretch of a triple shift. In other words, I’ve been working since 7a.m. and have been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining room of a health resort and Spa. I’m greeting and pouring water for my newest table of six, and one of the guests — a genteel, elderly man — looks at me and grins. ‘You must consider yourself pretty lucky,’ he tells me. I sweetly smile back ‘Why is that?’ ‘Imagine getting to work in a place like this’ he says, ‘It’s amazing your employers don’t make you pay them for such an opportunity.’”