Bottom Rung: Two Idaho Workers Talk About Life On Low Wages

May 7, 2013

John was an IT director 10 years ago. Now he spends his workdays behind the register of a Boise store.
Credit Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Wages are lower in Idaho than in nearly ever other state. That’s often chalked up to Idaho’s rural nature and low cost of living. But recently, the state has lost ground.

A federal Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that Idaho has the largest share of workers earning minimum wage in the country. And that share — 7.7 percent — is growing rapidly.

All this week, we’ll explain the trends that are playing out at the bottom of Idaho’s wage scale. Today, we’re asking: What is it like to earn minimum wage or close to it in Idaho? 

It can be difficult to find minimum wage earners who are willing to talk to a reporter. Supervisors at fast food chains and retail establishments turned me down. One worker decided against an interview after his boss threatened his job. Finally, I selected a stretch of road in Boise that’s lined with strip malls, restaurants and gas stations, and started talking to people.

Hailey, 19, agreed to answer my question. I agreed not to use her last name so that she wouldn’t risk trouble with her employer.

“Where I work, actually, it’s through a temp agency,” she explains. “We’re never hired on as full-time.” Click here to continue reading....