Time off? Working poor can't afford it

TEXT OF STORY

Lisa Napoli: Vacations are a luxury not everyone can afford — time off isn't even something everyone can afford. The only time commentator Moira Manion hasn't worked since 1998 was when she was laid off in 2002. And she spent the time she was out of work looking for employment.


Moira Manion: Most minimum-wage jobs don't offer paid time off. If you want a vacation, you have to dip into your savings to cover the pay you lose during your time away. If you don't have savings, too bad.

When you work two jobs, six or seven days a week, you need a vacation. Exhaustion is the unspoken plague of the working poor. You drag yourself out of bed, do your jobs, and then go home and pass out. That is if you live alone — if you have a family, you get even less sleep. This cycle goes on and on, for months, for years, until your mind and body can't take it anymore.

That's what happened to me. Twice. My first collapse was in March 2006. My exhaustion developed into severe flu, then into pneumonia. Luckily, the job I had then provided paid sick days, which I used up during two months of illness.

My current job doesn't offer paid vacation or sick leave. Since my savings were spent during my pneumonia, I can't afford to take time off.

I'd been working two jobs, from 5:30 AM till 6:30 PM, and my body finally rebelled in April this year. For four weeks I came home and collapse with chest pains, which I didn't see a doctor about because I didn't have medical insurance. I couldn't do my chores, I couldn't write, and I was barely coherent with my friends, who told me, "You need to get some rest!"

I'd love to rest. But the wages paid at the retail jobs that are wearing me out don't allow me to save enough so that I can take a vacation.

My friends warn me that I'm going to work myself to death. Hmmm. "Rest In Peace?" How bad can that be? And it wouldn't cost a dime.

Lisa Napoli: Moira Manion works in retail at the Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport.

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