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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/27/15

Postcard from the End of America: Center City, Philadelphia

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They do not want to give fired employees unemployment. They will find any way of going around paying people unemployment. So if they want to do a mass firing, they'll cut people's schedules. They'll cut their hours. For people they want to get rid of, they'll just give them one or two shifts a week. This usually forces people to quit, because they're so broke. This way, they don't have to fire ten people and pay unemployment."

Long time employees also expect periodic raises, so by forcing them out, owners save money. It's very passive aggressive, these tactics, "They will give you the shittiest shifts or they can cite you for every little mistake, every little thing that you do that they can make into an issue. What they did to me was, they'd suddenly email me and say, 'You're not in charge of that anymore. Why don't you do this,' then they'd give me these very childish tasks, these very boring tasks, and I was like, 'Why am I doing this if I'm the manager?' They'd email me and say, 'Oh, you don't have to come in today.' They phrased it in such a way that you're like, am I being rewarded with some time off? They kind of fucked with your head a little bit, so you'd think, maybe I'm being rewarded here, but at the end of the month, you're like, holy sh*t, I hardly worked at all. So they push you off. Holy sh*t, you know, they basically fired me, but they didn't do it outright, but only in the most passive aggressive way."

From talking to workers at other restaurants and bars, Angel found out these nasty practices are very common, "This is definitely going on, but no one talks about it."

As long as there is a surfeit of workers, these abuses will continue, I'm afraid, and it will only get much worse, since the economy isn't getting any better. Among Angel's coworkers were people who had been in law schools.

Next evening, I found Angel sitting across the street from her previous spot. Since her face was hidden by a furry hood, I could only identify Angel by her large, heart shaped glasses and the "god bless" on her sign. With much better eyesight than mine, she recognized me immediately and even remembered my name. Across Broad Street was the Bellevue-Stratford, and half a block away, The Union Club. There, Philly's blue bloods congregate to play arcane board games, kick the help down the stairs and worship Satan, most likely.

Behind Angel was Robinson Luggage, an upscale store that closed in 2013 after 29 years. Though in a prime spot, this space is still unoccupied. When I was a housecleaner, a woman I worked for took me there so I could carry her new suitcases from store to taxi, then from the taxi to her apartment, two flights up. Never comfortable in a nice anything, I stood outside as she shopped.

"Angel, why do they kick you out of the shelter at 5AM? Why can't they let you stay until 8 or something? It doesn't make any sense."

"No, it doesn't," she answered. "There is no reason for it. It's still dark and very cold out, but that's what they do, they wake us up at 5AM."

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Linh Dinh's Postcards from the End of America has just been published by Seven Stories Press. Tracking our deteriorating socialscape, he maintains a photo blog.


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