What if there are no Jobs or Little Pay?


The following is an excerpt from The Muskegon Chronicle.

Critics like to say America is the place where hard-working people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and achieve financial success. Others say a college education is the ticket to a well-paying job with benefits.

Tell that to the growing ranks of college-educated adults working in retail, or those who can’t get a minimum wage job because they are deemed overqualified.

Even high school students are struggling to find part-time work because the undesirable jobs that teens would gladly do — flipping burgers or herding shopping carts at grocery stores — are being taken by adults desperate to feed their families.

“You used to be able to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and that was one of the things that made this country great,” said Peters, who for 11 years has volunteered at the Loaves & Fishes food pantry operated by Catholic Social Services West Michigan. “But you just can’t do that anymore — there aren’t a lot of jobs out there for unskilled workers.”

Many factors contribute to the growing ranks of the working poor: High-paying factory jobs are being shipped overseas by the tens of thousands and many of the remaining jobs pay far less; many new jobs come without health-care benefits, which means a single health crisis can cause financial ruin; and some employers only give workers 30 hours a week, with no health-care benefits or paid vacations.

Sometimes, divorce sends a family into a financial tailspin. That’s what happened to North Muskegon resident Lisa Bosworth. She was living a financially comfortable life when her marriage failed and she was left to support herself and three children.

Bosworth remarried but her current husband, Ray, was forced onto medical disability when a prescription medication caused health problems. The couple, who had a fourth child together, struggle to support their family on Lisa’s meager income.

Bosworth’s gross monthly income from working as a classroom aide in Reeths-Puffer schools and doing two Chronicle newspaper routes is $1,900. That amounts to $22,800 annually, nearly $5,000 below the poverty level for a family of six.

When they run out of money near the end of each month, Lisa and Ray Bosworth line up at one of several food trucks that visit Muskegon each month.

Earlier this month, the couple and three of their children waited in line at a food truck at Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Norton Shores. Lisa Bosworth had just finished her two newspaper routes and was clearly fatigued after another 70-hour work week. “I’m tired,” she said.

The number of people seeking free food and other social services for the first time has skyrocketed in Michigan over the past year as plant closures have left more people competing for fewer jobs, local officials say. Local churches and social-service agencies are struggling to keep pace.


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