Who’s the boss?
Feb 10, 2021
Season 5 | Episode 2

Who’s the boss?

Jerry Vazquez was running his own cleaning franchise, but he was barely getting by. He started feeling like he had little control over a business he owned — so Jerry decided it was time to fight back.

When Jerry Vazquez launched his cleaning business, he was excited. Clients liked him. They left him nice notes, some with smiley faces drawn in. One of them read, “Keep him. He is a great worker.” But for all his good reviews, he was only making about $5 an hour — less than minimum wage.

Thinking like an entrepreneur, Jerry tried to figure out how to improve the situation. He says he tried to find ways to do the work faster, like skipping bathroom breaks or running. But he could only go so fast. He did market research and concluded that his accounts, which were negotiated by Jan-Pro, were often underbid, so he wanted to raise his rates. Jerry says his efforts didn’t go over well with Jan-Pro. He says the company discouraged him from being involved in the negotiating process or talking to customers at all.

Note: This is the second in a three-part series, you can listen to part one here and part three here.

As time went on, there were more and more things that Jerry says made him feel like he had little control over a business that he owned. Jerry started talking to other franchisees. The more people Jerry talked to, the more he realized he wasn’t alone. He wanted to fight back.

We’ll dive into some of the big lessons Jerry learned as we explore this thing we used to call employment: what happened to it, why it happened and what this new kind of workforce means for the American dream. 

For even more of “The Uncertain Hour,” subscribe to our newsletter! Each week we’ll bring you a note from host Krissy Clark and explain some terms that have come up in our reporting. This week’s word is “franchise.”

Click here to read a transcript of this episode. Here’s some additional reading and material we used in our research:

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The team

Krissy Clark Host and Senior Correspondent
Caitlin Esch Senior Producer
Catherine Winter Senior Editor
Chris Julin Producer
Sitara Nieves Executive Director, On Demand
Erica Phillips Writer/Producer
Marque Greene Assistant Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer