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THE BROKEN BACKBONE
As of 2017, it is estimated that 7.5 million Americans work two or more jobs. That is roughly 5% of the American workforce.
People in urban areas are choosing to juggle multiple jobs, and it is probably due to the rising costs of living. No city has seen a jump in the cost of living quite like Denver has recently. As higher costs push out lower earners, some people are choosing to take on more responsibility in order to maintain their lives.
I met with some of these people, all working the same primary job but at different stages of life, to talk to them about their experience.
Mike, 20, is a Starbucks employee and Pizza Cook at a local Italian restaurant. To pay for college and rent, Mike has to work two part-time jobs. He has found that companies are reluctant to give him a full-time position because they do not want to give him benefits. On a typical day where he has to work both jobs, he has left his home at 6 AM only to return after 9:30 PM, then get up to open again the next day. For Mike, he feels that maintaining two jobs is depriving him of a social life. He has “no chance to release his energy into anything other than work,” and when he finally sees his checks, “it’s really not worth it.”
Waseem, 22, is a Starbucks employee who also works the box office at the Alamo Drafthouse, where he says that people get to see his “beaming sunshine of a face.” Waseem has maintained both part-time positions for 2 years. Right now, he is grateful that his jobs are different enough that they tax different parts of his work ethic. For a while, he worked two jobs that drained the same kinds of energy, and he called that “doubly-exhausting.” He remembers a time when 40 hours at Starbucks was enough to sustain $620 a month for rent in Denver, but rent can no longer be found that low and Starbucks can no longer give him that many hours. Now, he often pulls double-shifts, working over 10 hours a day in order to afford rent.
Micah, 32, is an Ebar Barista and an Excavation Operator. He has worked two jobs for most of his adult life. As a single male, he says that he uses two jobs to keep himself busy and make extra money. He believes that if he were able to find and keep a full-time job, he would be able to live off of just one salary. Unfortunately for now, he must keep both part-time jobs to maintain his standard of living. In his opinion, one of the biggest struggles of working two jobs is finding spare time to run important errands. He told the story of how his registration had been expired for weeks, and he had to spend one of his first days off in over a month at the DMV.
Steve, 50, is now a full-time Ebar Barista. However, for 34 years prior, he consistently held two jobs. Typically, Steve worked one full-time job and one part-time job. In 1999, he decided to be a full-time barista, a choice that he described as the “best decision he’s ever made.” However, baristas typically do not make a living wage, so he always held another job. His secondary positions included bartending and sales. Steve likes working in the service industry because it gives him the chance to work with younger people. “I never had kids of my own, and this way, it’s like I get to have other people’s kids,” he joked. For Steve, the most frustrating part of balancing two jobs was time management. He lamented the fact that he never had time to do anything he wanted and that left him with no chance to spend any of the money he was making.
All of the people I talked to expressed their discontent with this job juggle. In my time at their coffee shops, I met more people with similar situations. I even met a girl who needed to find a second part-time job but was unable to because she was required to keep open availability for the job she already has.
The number of Americans juggling multiple jobs hit an all-time high back in 2016, and USA Today explored why this was happening. Employers frequently reported that it cost them less to hire multiple part-time employees than it would cost them to fill one full-time position.
In response, people are now making this balancing act their full-time gig, in a move that is coming to be known as “plural careerism.” For some, perhaps this is feasible. But clearly for others, this is a move that is made purely out of necessity.