Related: 'Dropping out' of the middle class

Interview: Cincinnati worker sacrifices pay, hours for colleague

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 

Robert Richardson, a janitor in Cincinnati, details the sacrifices he and his co-workers are enduring during the recession. With low paying, part-time jobs, Richardson says the poor financial times are creating struggles for teenagers and young adults.

Robert Richardson is a janitor in Cincinnati.

At the One Nation rally interviewed by Workshop reporter Kat Aaron:

He and his co-workers were recently offered more hours of work — if one worker was let go.

We were all working part time. And the thing was, to increase our hours we had to let a body go. And since she was the first — "last one hired first one fired" — that was the policy. And so we all decided to stick together and just keep the same pay that we already had to keep her job.

What did that mean for you financially?

Financially, it meant that I won't be making as much as I could have been making, but it also meant that somebody else could actually live and not have to go through this part of the recession that we're dealing with.

In Cincinnati, have you noticed changes in the city more broadly, in your neighborhood or community in the last couple years?

Yes. A lot more abandoned buildings and a lot more places are getting shut down daily. So, yes, I have. A lot of change.

If you could send a message to President Obama or to members of Congress, what would you like them to understand about what's going on in Cincinnati?

That we just need more jobs, basically. If there's any way we could do that could it please be done now? That's it.

The unemployment rate is really high among teenagers, young adults. What's the work situation for your friends?

A lot of my friends are having a hard time finding jobs and having an even harder time at school right now. Because they're trying to actually get a job and actually go to school, and it’s very hard to even find a job. Yeah, it’s a very, very high rate of unemployment for teenagers and young adults.

And so what do people do? If they can't find work?

A lot of them take that fall back plan and actually move back home. I mean it's sad to say, but that's what they actually end up doing, is moving back home, and trying to actually live with their parents.

 

What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele are revisiting America: What Went Wrong, their landmark 1991 newspaper series, in a new project with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Over the next year, the project team will examine how four decades of public policy has shaped America's ongoing economic crisis.

Issues

Back Story

The authors talk about What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele talk about the project, and why they decided to revisit a book they wrote two decades ago, in a series of video clips produced by the Workshop.

Nation's Story

Who pays the taxes?

Who pays the taxes?

We feature charts, maps, photos and other visualizations that reflect the state of the economy as part of our What Went Wrong project. This column chart shows the growing disparity between what individuals and corporations pay in taxes. In the 1950s, the difference was 22 percent. Recent figures show the difference is 62 percent.

Rags to rags: Economic mobility hard to come by

New Pew Center on States report confirms that moving up the American economic ladder is difficult, even though most people have more income than their parents.

Homelessness takes it toll on Florida's youngest

Florida, as a center of the housing boom, still struggles to recover from the Great Recession. Financial stresses and widespread foreclosures have placed families in precarious situations, resulting in a spike in child homelessness. Susannah Nesmith reports in the Broward Bulldog.

Older workers face challenges in Silicon Valley

An advanced degree and experience in the tech sector should be a ticket to a job in today's economy. But older workers in the heart of the new economy, Silicon Valley, are finding their resume is not the issue. Aaron Glantz reports in The Bay Citizen.

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Read an Excerpt

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

Check out the first chapter of Barlett and Steele's 2012 book here.