Tonja Galvan’s story:
You might think that three paychecks would be enough for a family of four to make ends meet, but for my family and others like us who are paid low wages, it often doesn’t come close. I have worked at the John Deere plant in Ankeny, Iowa for about nine years. It’s a good job that pays what looks like a good wage – over $20 per hour – but at the end of the month it doesn’t go very far. My paycheck not only supports me, but also goes toward helping out my mom, my daughter, and my 8-year-old granddaughter, since we all moved in together to help each other out. While my mom and daughter are working too, both are paid much lower wages than I am. On top of that, my daughter is going to college right now, chipping away at her time and our budget.
On top of everything else, I don’t even know how much longer I’ll have a job. Over the past three years my company has laid off over 800 people, and we know it’s just a matter of time before the rest of us at the plant get laid off, too. Planning for that future is impossible. Utilities have gone up, the mortgage has gone up; when we can’t pay everything, we just choose bills out of a hat to see what we’ll pay and what we’ll push to the next month. It might not be the best system, but at least it helps keep the stress down.
For now, we push forward and lean on one another. More job stability and higher wages for everyone would mean that we don’t have to all live together, and that my granddaughter wouldn’t have to ask me if we can help find furniture for her classmate’s family.
Because that’s the thing: this isn’t just us. All across our neighborhood, other families are struggling to get by, too. At least we have each other, and I know that we’re teaching my granddaughter about the value of family and of sticking together through thick and thin.