Life on $7.40/hour

Claudette Wilson is 23 and works two jobs in the fast food industry, one at Burger King and one at a pizza place. She is on her feet for over 12 hours a day and makes $7.40 an hour

1. What is your typical day like?

Everyday for me is different. I can tell you how a typical Saturday is like: first I wake up around 8am to go to work at Burger King from 10am to 6pm. After I get off of work from Burger King, I go to my second job at Jet’s Pizza from 6pm to midnight. After I get done with working, sometimes I hang with friends, sometimes I just go to sleep.

2. There’s been a lot of talk lately about people wanting work/life balance. Does your job provide that?

My work/life balance is pretty rough at times. There’s not even much time for me, let alone anyone else. In a weird way though, having both jobs does provide balance to me and a change of scene, but I’m not sure about others.

3. What’s the craziest/most unexpected thing that’s ever happened to you while on the job?

The most unexpected thing that happened to me when I was at work is when I witnessed a robbery at the Burger King I work at. The guy tried to get away in a cab. One of the cashiers and my manager at the time ran outside after the cab and chased it down to get the cab driver’s attention. The driver stopped and got out of the car while the cashier and the robber tussled in the backseat for awhile. In the end, the robber got out of the car and ran across the street and got away.

4. What makes for a really good day on the job?

A good day on the job to me is when I arrive on time, and everyone is in their position and ready to work. There aren’t many bad attitudes and the customers aren’t being rude. The best kind of day is when everyone is doing their job and the day goes by swiftly.

5. What’s your annual salary? Do you get benefits?

I get paid $7.40 an hour. My annual salary varies depending upon how many hours I work, but I have not made over $15,000 ever annually. I do not receive benefits. I have worked as a cook, cashier and in just about every position short of management off and on for the last three years. I still live at home with my mother and try to go to school on the side. I do dream of something more, but it’s really hard to get jobs right now.

More kids then ever return to live at home in the United States

What is to blame?

In the last 50 years, this country has done a great job— by maintaining Social Security benefits, expanding Medicare, underwriting home-ownership, securing pensions, and the like— of improving the economic circumstances of the generation that rode the postwar boom years to wealth and comfortable senior citizenship. This country has done an increasingly poor job— by letting the minimum wage stagnate, dis-investing in schools, public colleges, and infrastructure, undercutting workers’ leverage, and the like— of supporting the economic aspirations of that generation’s children and grandchildren.

My new gig

I realized the other day that I haven’t written about what I am doing now since I left The Lighthouse.  I left The Lighthouse without a Plan A or a Plan B.  When Wendy and I sat down and talked about Plan C, we actually spent a lot of time talking about selling the house and exploring options to work anywhere.

We talked a bit about moving to her home country of Guyana and I looked at some jobs in Europe.  The idea of selling everything and starting fresh was interesting and exciting to us.  We have a lot of equity in our home and benefitted from buying long before the real estate boom hit Saskatoon.  We looked at moving to Victoria, Nunuvuk, and even Newfoundland after some job offers came up.

During that time I was having conversations with companies staying in Saskatoon, including some service providers.  For some service providers, I was a good fit but I wasn’t really passionate about what they did.  Just going to work didn’t appeal to me and I wanted to do something that would continue to make a difference.

I had been talking with Tyler Stewart of Stewart Property Holdings.  Tyler is creating affordable housing suites out of old buildings  that everyone else has given up on like The 525 and 820 20th Street.  He also salvaged 340 Avenue D South which is a story that is so incredible that it needs its own documentary/horror film.

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During those times, I took some time to think about what I wanted to do and I read some good advice that said, don’t look for a job but rather look for an organization that you want to be a part of.

In talking more and more with Tyler, I realized that rejuvenating buildings and finding people quality housing is something that I care a lot about.  There is also the excitement of being part of was is essentially a start up..  His values of affordability and heritage appeal to me.

Back

The exciting thing for me is the opportunity to do something right that will be a part of the city for generations. Some of the properties are already 100 years old and this is part of their midlife rejuvenation.  Done right, they could be good housing stock for another hundred years.  That and it means staying in Saskatoon.

With new properties, it is the ability to bring in new ideas and make them fit in neighbourhoods, within budgets, and within city guidelines and regulations.  In both cases it’s seeing ideas come to light with the result being better homes for people in Saskatoon.

I am also working on the homelessness issue.  As Tim Richter, the head of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness has talked about, don’t build shelters, build housing units.  I agree and the opportunity now is to build housing units that match up with the needs of the residents.  For years I have had to make do with what we had.  For the first time I am able to work with agencies and build around the needs of people, regardless of their age, mental health issues, or their journey in life.

Anyways, my new job title is Vice President of Community Development and my email address is jordon AT stewartproperties.ca.  While I am not in the office a lot, it’s located at 500 Spadina Cres E which is right on the corner of 20th Street and Spadina Cres.