My 14 year old co-worker’s mom


A little while back, I wrote a diary about a 14 year old boy I work with at my weekend restaurant job who is fortunately having to use his paycheck to help his mother pay the utility bills. I had hoped to meet her at the employee Christmas party, but she did not come. I had hoped to let her know about some job opportunities with my employer, a large network of hospitals and clinics across my state and the surrounding states. But as luck would have it, I got to meet her a couple of weeks ago when I went to pick up my paycheck at the restaurant. 

Her son introduced us, (I will call her “Janet” to protect her privacy) and since the checks had not been delivered yet, we sat at a table in the lobby and made some small talk. I steered the conversion towards talking about our multiple jobs—and then let her know about the numerous front desk jobs available at numerous clinics in the area, and told her if she wanted to apply, I would let her use me as a reference. The company I work for pays a minimum of $15 an hour to even an entry level person with no experience at all, which is far more than she is making at the two jobs she is working right now— her son let it slip that she was being paid barely more than minimum wage. 

When I told Janet what the job paid, she seemed interested, so I started talking to her about what the job entails, such as answering the phone, and checking patients into and out of their appointments. I let her know that in some offices, she may have to scan in and index documents as well. But then when I explained to her that she would have to learn to use our electronic health records program, she kind of froze up.

She looked at me and asked, “You mean I am going to have to learn a computer program?”

I told her yes, but my company trains you in the classroom, and then trains you on the floor for at least two weeks before they have you work on your own—and even then, they are good about making sure you have people around you who can help you if you run into any problems or have any questions. 

Then Janet told me that she had quit school when she was in the 8th grade, did not have a GED, and could only read enough to get by day to day at her job. She told me she had failed a few grades and at age 15, she got pregnant and had to quit her job. She and her boyfriend had moved in with his mom, and when he turned 18, they got an apartment. After about 3 years, they split up and moved out of state, leaving her with her son and an infant daughter to care for on her own. 

I asked Janet if she had looked into any of the literacy programs available in the community, and she told me should would love to take part in one of those, and get her GED, but because she could not find child care for her younger child on the nights the classes were available, she could not go. She told me that before COVID, she used to get child care subsidies that help cover the cost of her childcare, but now she can’t get any help—even if she could find a child care provider at all.  That did not surprise me, actually—I can name at least three child care centers here in town that closed in recent years.

Her story is much like the story of many other women in this area—and across much of the US, especially in red states. Even before COVID, it was difficult for a single mother with young children to scrape by. The amount of money TANF pays is a joke—barely $300 a month, and the women are required to work several hours a week doing “community service” –not unlike a criminal–in order to get their check. For most single moms, the TANF program isn’t even worth bothering with any more. And that is just the way Republicans want it. 

Before COVID, though, it was still possible for a single parent to get child care subsidies and food stamps, and go to work at a crap job or go to one of the community colleges in the area. But when COVID hit, many child care centers in this state ended up closing permanently, since they had no revenue in order to pay the rent on their facilities and keep the doors open during the pandemic. In addition, child care workers are often paid even lower wages than fast food workers, so the child care centers that remain are losing employees to companies who can pay them a higher wage. So now, there simply are not enough child care openings to go around at the facilities that remain—in fact, even well to do workers are scrambling to find child care.

And this is just the way the so-called “pro-life” right wing christian nationalists of the GOP like it. They not only want to strip women of their reproductive freedom, they also want to make it much, much more difficult for a woman to survive without being dependent on a man. And they don’t care of they destroy the economy in order to do it. They will do anything in order to force the whole country to live according to their religious beliefs. And the whole Republican party is beholden to them, including those business owners who are Republicans because they think their policies will help them economically. I wonder how long it will be before the business right jettisons the religious right because they are hurting profits, and have become a liability.

Until the child care crisis is dealt with there will be a shortage of workers in fields dominated by women. ( Of course, female workers aren’t the only workers missing from the labor pool—there are also the immigrants who are no longer available. But that is another story. )

I wasn’t able to help Janet out of her predicament the other day, but we did have a nice chat about the way Republicans screwed the economy, and have always made things worse for people like us. I had my chromebook in my van, and I helped her register to vote right there on the spot as we ate french fries and waited for our paychecks to arrive. 

This is how we beat back the fascists who want to destroy us all, and make the world a better place, folks. One person, one voter at a time.

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