- by Anne Finlay-Stewart

For the third in our series about living on minimum wage, I interviewed a local woman who has asked us not to use her name for fear of putting her precarious work at risk.
Here is "Marie's" story.

Marie is from this area; her father worked on some of the famous lakers. She had a steady job at Edwards in Owen Sound in the 1990s, making $16 an hour – about double the minimum wage at the time – before she was laid off as the out-sourcing trend began to take hold. She moved to Cambridge to find work, and was soon making switches for  space satellites. She had earned 13 certifications, was an "Assembler 3", and was making $62,000 a year when lay-offs there began. Twenty-five percent of the work force was let go – Marie was the only one to be laid off in her department.

Returning home to Owen Sound, Marie used her severance pay to buy two trailers in the local trailer park. She lived in one and rented the other until recent issues with a contractor made her home unliveable and cost her the rest of her savings.

Marie has been on her own for years, and has never been afraid of work. She has been working here in town in a unionized grocery store but after two years she was making $11.70 – a dime above minimum wage – and never scheduled for more than 24 hours a week and often only 8 or 12. At 62, she started looking for a second job, taking her resumés around to local businesses. At one coffee shop she was told straight out they were looking for "someone younger".

Last October, she started her second job at a local retailer. The company is family-owned with dozens of locations in Canada, and Marie had only good things to say about the management and work environment.

A heart attack just before Christmas was the latest complication in Marie's life. They put a stent in at St. Mary's Hospital in Kitchener, and Marie was sent home. Her employer of less than two months has no legal obligations to her, but without requiring any doctor's note they have provided her with wages as she waits for the all-clear return to return to work. One of the staff printed out all the positive comments that customers and co-workers had made about Marie's service (the most her manager said he had ever seen such a short time) and gave them to her to help cheer her up in her recovery.

This kind of support, and being in a community where she has family and friends, have added to Marie's natural positivity. There is no question in Marie's mind that everything will get better from here.

Part 1 of the series

Part 2 of the series




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