Neo-liberal America–love it or leave it, baby (boldface mine):
Once again managers also forced Claudia to report more tips than she actually earned. They didn’t want to have to pay her the difference between $2.13 and the minimum wage of $7.25. In addition, they never paid her overtime. “I would have to work off the clock,” says Claudia…
Worst of all, the managers forced Claudia to translate their nasty comments to the Latino bussers and dishwashers. “When the managers were mad, they’d take it out on bussers and dishwashers, and they’d make me translate all the horrible things they were saying,” says Claudia. “The workers would cry when I told them they were being sent home. I would apologize and feel horrible. They would say, ‘Please don’t send me home. I need to make this salary.’ I would say, ‘I’m sorry, that’s what they’re making me tell you.’ They saw me as a sellout. I knew that this was the only job I could get, and the only one they could get. The managers would take the most vulnerable people and take stuff out on them when things were going bad. It was inhumane, horrible, how they treated them.” Although Claudia was a firebrand at school, she somehow could not bring herself to advocate for these workers on the job. She told herself she really needed the money, and tried hard to ignore the pleas of her Latino coworkers….
She was also hungry all the time. She couldn’t afford food and tried to survive on pancakes she ate at the restaurant. “I had to eat less than $6.50 for the employee meal,” says Claudia. “If I wanted an omelette, I went over $6.50. I could only afford pancakes. If you were on the schedule for only five hours, you couldn’t get a meal. There were days when I wouldn’t eat all day.”
She was a food service worker who couldn’t afford to eat.
At times Claudia and other waitresses would try to get food from the cooks. “When we were really hungry, we would flirt with the cooks to get food,” she says. “Sometimes we wanted shrimp, but they wouldn’t let us eat it even when it came out bad. The cooks were all Mexican, so I would put on makeup and make jokes that only Mexicans would know. I was really hungry! They would ask me for my number, and I’d say, ‘Can I have three pieces of butterfly shrimp?’ I’d give them a fake number, so later they’d ask me why I lied. I’d just tell them, ‘I have to eat!’”
…you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages….
Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working everyday? They are making wages so low that they can not begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation. These are facts which must be seen. And it is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis and a full-time job getting part-time income.
…But it seems that I can hear the God of the universe saying, “even though you’ve done all of that, I was hungry and you fed me not. I was naked and ye clothed me not. The children of my sons and daughters were in need of economic security, and you didn’t provide for them. So you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness.”
I hope that future generations will look back on us and wonder how so many of us could be so heartless and cruel–unnecessarily so. It puts the lie to the notion that Our Great Moral Crisis is to be found in the supposed bad behavior of the powerless. Or as we like to say around here, personal responsibility and accountability for one’s actions are not the sole purview of single minority mothers.