Trapped in Poverty: When Two Jobs Don’t Suffice

There are many Angelenos who struggle to make ends meet, even when they work more than two jobs
Trapped in Poverty: When Two Jobs Don’t Suffice
Un neoyorquino para vivir modestamente en el nivel de pobreza necesitaría aproximadamente $ 215,000 en ahorros.
Foto: Getty Images

Melecio Garcia works 15 hours a day, sometimes 16 and even more.

“It’s the only way to provide for my family and not being short of money,” says this undocumented immigrant from Mexico who lives with his family in El Monte.

In both jobs he earns the minimum wage: $10.23 an hour at a Japanese food factory and $10 an hour at a laundromat.

Garcia is part of the hundreds of thousands of Latinos with documents, and without them, who, due to the high cost of living, need to have two or three jobs that pay the minimum wage. “It is the most common thing. Everybody does it,” says Garcia.

“In my first job I start at 8:00 a.m. and I leave at 5:00 p.m. But there are days when they ask me to start at 6 or 5 in the morning. From there, I go to a laundromat where I work from 6 to 11,” he says.

This 48-year-old immigrant says that, with two jobs, he can raise his daughters.

“The 21-year-old is now independent. We help the 20-year-old pay college and we support the 11 and 6-year-old with everything,” he says.

Sara, Garcia’s wife, also works at a dry cleaning business, six days a week, six hours a day, and earns $10 per hour.

“When I came to the United States 26 years ago, I did not think I would need to have two jobs to make it. And of course, sometimes I’m very tired. I have to take vitamins to keep up,” he says.

Even with three jobs, Garcia is juggling to stretch his income. They rent a one-bedroom apartment for $1,000 a month.

“The two younger girls sleep in the room and we sleep in the living room,” says Garcia.

On January 1st, the minimum wage increased from $9 to $10 an hour in California. Residents of Los Angeles who work within the limits of the city will see a slight additional boost to $10.50 starting July due to the law that will gradually increase the minimum wage until it hits $15 an hour by 2020.

Latinos are the most benefited with the increase of the minimum wage since they tend to work in less qualified and low-income jobs.

“Even when earning $15, it is very difficult to live in such an expensive city like Los Angeles,” said Gilda Valdez, president of Fast Food Workers Organizer Committee, in an interview with La Opinión

Garcia is not likely to be benefited with the increase because his jobs are located in the cities of Baldwin Park and La Puente, which are a part of the Los Angeles County. The latter also voted for an increase to $15 per hour by 2020 but only for its unincorporated areas like East Los Angeles and others.

Francisco Zapata, an immigrant from Puebla, Mexico, is a little more privileged, because in his first job at a winery he earns $11 an hour and $11.50 in the second one. He works 16 hours a day.

“I work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the cellar and, from 10:00 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. in the food store. I sleep four hours daily but I rest, sleep all day on weekends,” he says

His wife works as a cashier at a taco stand and earns $10.50 an hour. They have three children ages 19, 13 and 5.

“I could keep only one job but I am trying to save some money for something in Mexico, and I also I send money to my mother every 15 days,” says Zapata, who is 38 years old.