The “working poor” are those people who have a job – maybe even several – but are barely making ends meet. They could be the usher at your local theater, or the street cleaner hauling away garbage. In our continuing profile series about the working poor produced by ideastream’s Brian Bull, we meet a Cleveland man who served time for killing a passenger while driving under the influence, and whose auto sales career sunk during the recession…..
“Hello, my name is Brushawn Fletcher. I’m 37 years old. I was born here in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I’m employed at Metal Fabrications, in Cleveland West Side Area. I’m a material handler. I also work at Green City Growers, where we package the crops that have to go out different companies.
“It’s time to get on track, pull myself out of this slump that I’ve created.
“I was convicted for vehicular homicide, back in 2008. And…I was dodging bullets in a way. A lot of times I would hire a cab, choose to stay home. However on this night, I rolled the dice. And sometimes you make it home, sometimes you don’t.
“I served five years in prison. Four years with the year of parole. Prior to that, I was making $8,000 a month, sales manager at a car dealership.
“I remember what it felt like being confined. It’s like a nightmare you wish you’d never ever have again, and….that moment when I became a free man, it was very weird. The air felt fresh. It was just like a breath of life. You feel like a person again, you don’t feel like a robot.
“Upon my release in 2012, I find myself looking for a job. Couldn’t find a job… the dealership I was working at was going out of business. Plus the banks stopped loaning as generously as they once had been, it was tough for us to get loans for clients, and a lot of people couldn’t afford to buy a car, when they had to worry about their home.
“I thought I could get a job here selling cars, but found out that my background was a problem.
“And then I heard about Towards Employment, and it was really a blessing ‘cause you don’t think you can be hired because you hear all the bad stories when you have a felony and a conviction on your record. And all their readiness programs and they helped us build our resumes…it really helped me out tremendously.
“Eventually when I was fortunate enough to find a job, I went from $8,000 month income to $8 an hour. That’s definitely a wide-awakening….
“Right now we’re at Green City Growers, and we specialize in a variety of different vegetables, from butterhead lettuce to romaine…green oak leaf, red oak leaf…
“Take it, you cut the root off, and toss it, and it goes from conveyor right to the packing station…gets sent off to one of the distributors…
“I start at 6am and I punch out at 2:30 pm. My second job…I have to be at Metal Fabrication from 3:30 to 7:30. Definitely worth it ‘cause my goal is one day to see my daughter and provide for her…
“My daughter now, she’s eight, she’ll be nine in December. She was three and a half when I went to prison…so I haven’t seen her, ah….since July 2008.
“Being a member of the working poor, at times I do feel judged. When I leave work, get on the bus. I’m typically sweaty, dirty…fingernails might be black from ink. People grab their purse! And they hold it tight when you walk by ‘em. I really don’t really let those things really bother me, because I know where I’m going. And where I’m headed, and how hard I’m going to try to get there.
“After being turned down five, six, seven…maybe even eight times looking for a job in the cold snow, you have to search, because there is employment. There is opportunity here. We just have to find it.”