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Study finds low-wage jobs in Syracuse take toll on physical & mental health

Oliver Hine
via Flickr

A continuing study of low-wage workers in Central New York shows that many suffer from physical ailments caused by the job. And the situation takes a toll on their mental health as well.

The Low-Wage Workers Health Project has spent the last two years getting a sense of what life is like for someone living at the poverty level in the Syracuse area.  

While project Manager Jeanette Zoekler says these low-wage workers go to work and suffer from exposures to dust and vapors, repetitive motion ailments, and work-related stress, it’s the ultimate disappointment they have in their lives that struck her.

"There’s a kind of shame that can come over people when they speak about the path they’ve taken in life. I had one person say, ‘look, I didn’t expect to be working at McDonald’s, I trained to be a construction worker. I never planned on being here.’”

Zoekler hopes that the research leads to some policy recommendations for better job and safety training, and eventually better wages. She says the $15 minimum wage rate that’s being discussed in political circles now, will ease the stresses of a low income worker, but it won’t solve the problem.

“The $15 an hour figure many people reported would not give them a middle class lifestyle. It would not give them the ability to go on vacation or do any extras, get a nice car. This would be, one person said, an oatmeal and spaghetti existence could begin if I had $14-15 an hour.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.