Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cheap motels and a hot plate

By sometime PWW contributing sports writer and labor activist Chas Walker via Rhode Island's Future,

The New York Times has a story today about families hurt by the economic crisis who are living out of motel rooms and cooking off of those plug-in electric burners many of us know as hot plates. The article and accompanying photos show the strain and suffering that the wonders of capitalism have bestowed upon working people in America - and in this case, Orange County, California.

In the evening, the smell of pasta sauce cooked on hot plates drifts through half-open doors; in the morning, children leave to catch school buses. Families of three, six or more are squeezed into a room, one child doing homework on a bed, jostled by another watching television. Children rotate at bedtime, taking their turns on the floor. Some families, like the Malpicas, in a motel in Anaheim, commandeer a closet for baby cribs.

If you haven't read it already, check out Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate by Monthly Review editor Michael Yates, which came out a few years ago. The book is "An Economist's Travelogue," chronicling Yates' and his wife's journeys around the country, working mostly in service industry jobs and living on the margins of society - in cheap motels with a hot plate. The book is full of powerful anecdotes as well as statistics about work, poverty, race, and environmental degradation in America.

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