I was focusing on parents in low-wage families, documenting their accounts of working, being poor, and trying to keep children safe. But that changed when I spoke with Jonathan, a middle-aged “top manager” in a chain of grocery stores in the Midwest. I was asking him about the stresses of running a business that employed lots of low-wage parents.
He spoke of parents whom he got to know pretty well, who headed home each week with less than they needed to feed their families.
Yes, he said, it is the “going wage”—America’s “market wage”—that doesn’t cover the market cost of basic human needs. Still, it didn’t seem right to Jonathan. He described how it changed his job, tainted it, to be supervising people who couldn’t get by on what he paid them.