A man wearing the uniform and cap of a fast-food worker, his apron tucked into a pant pocket, approached a clerk at the Alameda County Social Service Agency. As he handed over documents for his public assistance benefits claim, the man explained how it had felt to be waiting in the lobby for the past several hours:
“I was the first here and the last to leave.”
“You should get a pay check!” the clerk responded.
The reality is that this man does “get a paycheck” from his minimum wage job, but finds himself unable to meet his basic needs. This is a common scene at my office in Oakland and public assistance offices across the country.
This month’s National Association of Social Workers’ theme is “All People Matter,” chosen to remind us of our profession’s commitment to improving social conditions for all.