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Economic Justice

A Love Letter to Part-Time Workers

Because you hold up the tent poles

According to Waldman, Starbucks workers are some of the worst exploited. Image made with Canva Pro.

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​You’re on the job. But you need more hours to pay your bills. Last week, you got them. Not this week. It’s a crap shoot — though it shouldn’t be — and incredibly stressful.

I’ve been there

​I was on commission, running the shop for a disengaged owner. He brought in the business; I did the work installing window tint on cars. And everything else. Like bookkeeping and ordering products. All the way down to scrubbing the floors and the toilette and taking out the garbage. When he decided to take time off, work slowed down.

“You need to do more advertising,” I urged him. “Talk to car dealerships to bring their cars to us.” He just didn’t do it.

I wasn’t making enough commission to pay my bills, and nobody else was hiring. That’s when I pocketed some of the few jobs that did come in. I was afraid I’d get caught. Ashamed to be a thief.

I wanted to work for the money, not steal it. But I was desperate. Rent, food, gas. I didn’t have enough work for my commission to cover those.

Then, a recommendation got me another job, and I was able to pull out of the hole.

My story is one example of the nightmare of wanting to work but not getting enough of it to make ends meet. According to Adelle Waldman, author of the novel, Help Wanted,¹ for tens of millions of people, this is their reality, though for different reasons.

Labor shenanigans

For those who aren’t aware of this relatively recent scourge, Waldman’s book sheds light on it in her New York Times piece, ‘It’s Not Just Wages. Retailers Are Mistreating Workers in a More Insidious Way.’²

The scheme is “involuntary part-time work.”

Employers save on the steep cost of benefits required with full-time employees. Even more cost-saving is the practice of taking part-time workers off the clock during slow hours. Walmart is such a business — half of its workforce is part-time.³

There are several problems for workers. From week to week, you don’t know if you’re going to get enough hours to pay your bills. Unpredictable schedules keep you unofficially on call in case you’re called in, which makes getting a better second job or just a better job exceedingly difficult.

Take one of my Facebook friends, for example. Her crazy hours made it impossible to commit to a specific schedule at a second job she might have otherwise landed.

People want to work! They have pride. But being so terribly mistreated, it’s a hard thing for them to hold on to.

If you’re an involuntary part-timer, I am so sorry Big Business is doing this to you. You deserve so much better, my friend.

Is there hope in a new law?​​

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Elizabeth Warren, and others introduced the “Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act.”.⁴ It requires employers to make more predictable and stable work schedules. And to offer available hours to part-timers before hiring additional workers.

This bill needs support to get pushed through. You can bet; I’ll call my representative and tell them to get behind it. ​ You can, too. Here’s the link. Click on “Contact your member.” It’ll connect you with your representative.

A love letter ​

Reading the Waldman article and being reminded of that disheartening job made me want to reach out to you with love.

If you’re getting worked over by your job, I want to tell you I see you. And considering this new propose law, so do others.

This isn’t your fault. It’s unconscionable labor practices. By forcing you to work part-time, taking you off the clock when business slows down, and forcing you to hang around, companies are circumventing labor laws to squeeze out more profits.

You are doing everything you can. Showing up instead of giving up.

That, alone, is so admirable!

You’re not a “basic worker.” You’re the backbone of the economy.

Whether it’s picking and packing in a warehouse, working as a home health aide, in a call center, through gig work platforms, or delivering food, I respect you and appreciate you and the work you do. The conditions are dehumanizing. And that says everything about employers and nothing about you. You, my friend, are a beautiful human being.

Your contribution is important. It’s invaluable.

And you need to hear this: You are impressive — mustering integrity, professionalism, and pride in your work under demoralizing conditions. Wow!

That you still infuse your work with your unique talent and expertise demonstrates your fine and deep spirit. It’s inspiring and humbling. And your continued goodwill? I don’t even have the words for how amazing that is.

It’s time we recognize you, value and cherish you for the contribution you make day in and day out. Part of that recognition has to be pay, which includes healthcare, sick days, paid vacation time, and enough to build a nest egg. That’s the simple truth.

So many blessings on you and your family. On your heart that even now musters compassion and dignity.

With respect. Henry ♡

If you want to support, here’s that link again to point your representative to the new part-time labor law. Click on “Contact your member.”

Your story is being told.

¹Help Wanted by Adelle Waldman, GoodRead ²New York Times Piece by Adelle Waldman ³The Center for Popular Democracy: Trapped In Part-Time ⁴Proposed law: S 2850 & S 2851 (118th Congress) Powerful movie: Nomadland, showing the struggle Brand-new book, arguing that it doesn’t have to be this way: The Alternative: How to Build a Just Economy

Dear Reader, I hope this article connected with you in a way that is meaningful to you. Thank you for taking the time to read it. It’s you who make my Medium journey special.

Henry India was born in W. Germany and lives in Seattle, Washington with their soulmate, hummingbirds, squirrels, rabbits, chickadees, sparrows, robins, jays, plum, cherry, and apple trees, a very old pear tree, and magnificent laurels. Also, ants, snails, a few rats, and a raccoon family. They are a nonbinary writer and soul coach.

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Economic Justice
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