Sunday, August 27, 2006

PBS Documentary Looks at Working Poor

With Labor Day rapidly approaching, a POV documentary "Waging a Living" is very timely. It will be shown of PBS stations (including KPTS Channel 8 in Wichita) this Tuesday August 29 at 9 PM Central time, 10 pm Eastern, etc. Here are the first several paragraphs on the show from the PBS website.

If you work hard, you get ahead. That's the American Dream in a nutshell — no matter what your race, color, creed or economic starting point, hard work will improve your life and increase your children's opportunities. Yet, this widely held dream is out of reach for an increasing number of working Americans.

Roger Weisberg's alarming and heart-wrenching new documentary, "Waging a Living," puts a human face on the growing economic squeeze that is forcing millions of workers into the ranks of the poor. Shot in the Northeast and California, the film profiles four very different Americans who work full-time but still can't make ends meet. Despite their hard work and determination, these four find themselves, as one of them observes, "hustling backwards."

One in four American workers — more than 30 million people — are stuck in jobs that pay less than the federal poverty level for a family of four. (i) Housing costs, to name just one of several essential living expenses, have tripled since 1979, while real wages for male low-wage workers are actually less than they were 30 years ago. But the new face of the working poor is overwhelmingly that of a woman struggling to support her children. Only 37 percent of single mothers receive child support, and that support averages just $1,331 per year. Nearly a quarter of the country's children now live below the poverty line.

What do these numbers mean in human terms? What is it really like to work full-time and remain poor? "Waging a Living" provides a sobering answer. Filmed over three years, the documentary offers intimate profiles of four working Americans — Jean Reynolds, Jerry Longoria, Barbara Brooks, and Mary Venittelli — as they struggle to lift their families out of poverty.

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