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Workers Learn to Get By

August 02, 2003

Re "When Sam Meets Barbara," Opinion, July 27: It seems Barbara Ehrenreich and Carol Mithers are out of touch with the workers. Along with some of the U.S. college students, they need to learn how working people do get by in America. And so many do get by, or better, that willing workers from all over the world are eager to live and work here. How do they do it? One way is they share living space and expenses. Some work at two, or even three, jobs. A determined, ambitious person who is willing to work hard can find a way to get by. Another constant in this country is the willingness of some who are doing better than just getting by to help those they observe working hard and sacrificing. (No welfare needed.)

Ehrenreich needed to suck it up, get a second job and find someone willing to share a low-rent apartment with her to complete her "getting by" role. If Mithers has ever worked a 9-to-5 job, she knows that the kinds of rules and supervisors Ehrenreich encountered at Wal-Mart are found everywhere, in both union and nonunion workplaces. Wal-Mart has brought to the country's small towns opportunities that never existed before. It is well and good to say that consumers should patronize local small businesses, but most "getting by" folks cannot afford the high prices those stores charge. In addition, Wal-Mart has added jobs to those small towns and rural areas, places that sorely need them.

Wanda L. Kelly

Fullerton

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Ehrenreich's book correctly indicts Wal-Mart for poor practices with regard to labor, but considering the continued influx of poverty-level immigration it's no surprise that $7-per-hour wages are the standard. This subsidy for stores like Wal-Mart (i.e., immigration) is helping to bankrupt California. These wages simply do not cover health care, housing and food. So the state has to pick up the tab to the tune of billions yearly.

You'd never know that by reading "Now Latinos Are in the Driver's Seat" (Commentary, July 27). Basically, Frank del Olmo suggests that the governor sell out California's long-term interests in order to retain his position -- buying off Latinos by giving them the socially irresponsible driver's license bill, etc. Of course, this would continue to sustain the system that Ehrenreich derides. Without millions of immigrants suppressing wages overall, Wal-Mart and other big businesses would have to cut corners elsewhere.

Wes Walton

Los Angeles

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