Elizabeth woman making minimum wage gets by with the help of a big family

By. Tom Wright-Piersanti


ELIZABETH — On the floor of Shoppers World, Alida F. spends her day helping customers find merchandise and keeping the shelves and racks neat and well stocked.

But when the 32-year-old Elizabeth resident gets out of work, she relies on the help of a large family support system to pay the bills that her part-time minimum wage job can’t afford.

She is among the thousands of workers in New Jersey who would be affected the ballot question on Nov. 5 asking voters to amend the state constitution to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25, followed by automatic annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index.

Democrats in the state Legislature put the question to voters after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed their effort to pass an increase through legislation, saying the state is too financially weak to handle it. Supporters argue the hike would have a positive ripple effect on the economy.

Alida, who asked to only use her last initial, said she earns about $315 every two weeks at the Elizabeth department store, where nearly all the employees are part-time workers making minimum wage.

She lives in a house with nine other relatives, including her parents, multiple siblings and nephews. If it weren’t for the family around her, she said she doesn’t know how she could get by.

“If I only had the paycheck, it’s gonna be bad for me,” Alida said. “But living with my family, if I don’t have the rent today, they say OK, give it to me next month. Same thing with the bills.”

To save money, she shares groceries with relatives. She said would like to move out on her own, but her job wouldn’t be able to support it.

“Of course,” she said with a laugh. “I mean, it’s not because of anything bad, but I guess anybody is going to think sometimes to go live by themselves.”

She moved to the United States from Ecuador after finishing high school there, but has never had the chance to earn a college degree, something she said she would like to pursue if she didn’t have to work so hard to earn a living.

She also struggles to find additional work. None of the seasonal retail jobs she has applied to this year have panned out, she said, with many telling her business is just too slow to bring on even minimum-wage earners.

Alida, who does not have any children, said she has a multitude of friends with young families who struggle to make ends meet on minimum wage, which makes her all the more thankful for her tight-knit family.

“They help me sometimes with the phone bills or with the rent check when I don’t have money,” she said. “When we go shopping, they pay for my stuff, so its not terrible for me because I have them. Without them I don’t think I’d be able to do it.”
Original article


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