On Being Broke vs. Being Poor


What’s the difference between being broke and poor? Nona Willis Aronowitz breaks it down for us in The Nation, using Girls‘s Hannah and Shameless‘s Fiona as examples: both women work in the service industry, but the former is indignant while the other is resigned. The most fascinating part of her piece is the difference between how broke workers organize and poor workers refrain from doing so:

Last year, when I reported on a group of young, mostly educated, mostly white kids trying to organize the sandwich chain Jimmy John’s in the Twin Cities, I spoke with Macalester College professor Peter Rachleff. He compared the organizers to certain Occupy kids who are “entitled,” “aware of their rights,” and have a safety net in case they get fired. I met a young woman who was galvanized by the realization that her middle-class aspirations may end up being pipe dreams. “What are the real dreams that we can actually accomplish? Fucking building a union,” she told me.
Compare this mentality to that of the working class employees I spoke with at Walmart last month, when reporting for The Nation on the workers who did not join the strikes, many of whom were terrified about retaliation or just happy to be making money at all. These workers are also hanging back from organizing at places like Burger King, Domino’s and Target.
Rachleff predicts that “as these jobs become less transient, people of all socioeconomic classes may be more vested in making it a better experience.” And as the recession’s fever pitch recedes into the past, a larger number of young people will come to terms that they’ll have these jobs for a while. Eventually, both groups may realize they have nothing to lose by working together.

[The Nation]

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