I used to be a Google engineer. That often feels like the defining fact about my life. When I joined the company after college in 2015, it was at the start of a multiyear reign atop Forbes’s list of best workplaces.
I bought into the Google dream completely. In high school, I spent time homeless and in foster care, and was often ostracized for being nerdy. I longed for the prestige of a blue-chip job, the security it would bring and a collegial environment where I would work alongside people as driven as I was.
After Working at Google, I’ll Never Let Myself Love a Job Again
I learned the hard way that no publicly traded company is a family.
Ms. Nietfeld is a software engineer. She worked at Google from 2015 to 2019.
The comments section for this article is especially interesting.
Joyce Barnes sometimes pauses, leaving the grocery store. A crowd shifts past, loaded up with goodies. Barnes pictures herself, walking out with big steaks and pork chops, some crabmeat.
“But I’m not the one,” she says. Inside her bags are bread, butter, coffee, a bit of meat and canned tuna — a weekly grocery budget of $25.
The shopping has to fit between her two jobs. Barnes, 62, is a home care worker near Richmond, Va. In the mornings, she takes care of a man who lost both his legs, then hustles off to help someone who’s lost use of one side of his body in a stroke. The jobs pay $9.87 and $8.50 an hour. Barnes gets home around 9 p.m., then wakes at 5 a.m. to do it all over again.
She Works 2 Jobs. Her Grocery Budget Is $25. This Is Life Near Minimum Wage
All Things Considered
In making the case against a union at its warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., Amazon has touted its compensation package. The company notes that base pay at the facility, around $15.50 an hour for most rank-and-file workers, is more than twice the local minimum wage, and that it offers comprehensive health insurance and retirement benefits.
But to many of Amazon’s Bessemer employees, who are voting this month on whether to unionize, the claims to generosity can ring hollow alongside the demands of the job and local wage rates. The most recent figure for the median wage in greater Birmingham, a metropolitan area of roughly one million people that includes Bessemer, was nearly $3 above Amazon’s pay there, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Amazon Says It Pays Alabama Workers Well; Other Local Employers Pay More
Recent organizing campaigns in the South suggest the company’s wage scale may have left it vulnerable to a union.
The retail workers union has a long history of organizing Black workers in the poultry and food production industries, helping them gain basic benefits like paid time off and safety protections and a means to economic security. The union is portraying its efforts in Bessemer as part of that legacy.
“This is an organizing campaign in the right-to-work South during the pandemic at one of the largest companies in the world,” said Benjamin Sachs, a professor of labor and industry at Harvard Law School. “The significance of a union victory there really couldn’t be overstated.”
The warehouse workers began voting by mail on Feb. 8 and the ballots are due at the end of this month. A union can form if a majority of the votes cast favor such a move.
Amazon Workers’ Union Drive Reaches Far Beyond Alabama
A vote on whether to form a union at the e-commerce giant’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., has become a labor showdown, drawing the attention of N.F.L. players, and the White House.
Michael Corkery and Karen Weise
CYNTHIA: About the end of February, close to March, they laid us off because of the pandemic. And during…
CAMP: She was surviving. And then this pandemic, by no fault of her own, took her job away, took away her ability to pay her rent.
CYNTHIA: They laid us off. They sent the letters, saying, sign up for employment.
CAMP: She struggled to apply for unemployment benefits.
CYNTHIA: So I signed up for unemployment. I didn’t get unemployment till four for five months.
CAMP: And in fact, through the better part of last summer, she did not even receive unemployment.
CYNTHIA: I’m trying to find a place to live. I can’t find nothing. I can’t find another job. I’ve been looking and looking. It’s been a whole year now – you know, going on a year. I still can’t find anything.
SHAPIRO: We’re not using Cynthia’s last name because she doesn’t want this story to affect her future ability to find a place to live. She’s 52 and lives in the St. Louis area with her two adult kids, who’ve also struggled to find work, and her 8-year-old grandson. They’re all in a house where she owes about a year of back rent. There is sewage backing up in the pipes, and the landlord wants them to leave.
CYNTHIA: And I know these people want us out of this house. I want to be out of here just as bad they want us out ’cause I’m not like that, not paying my bills and don’t want to pay. I want to pay.
Amid protests across the country over retail and service jobs that pay little better than the minimum wage, it’s easy to forget that this income benchmark once meant something slightly different. In the past, a minimum-wage job was actually one that could keep a single parent out of poverty.
Since the 1980s, the federal minimum wage has kept pace with neither inflation, nor the rise of the average worker’s paycheck. That means that while a federal minimum wage in 1968 could have lifted a family of three above the poverty line, now it can’t even do that for a parent with one child, working full-time, 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year (yes, this calculation assumes that the parent takes no time off).
Emily Badger, Bloomberg
December 4, 2013