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Are You Working For A Broke-Ass Business?

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Broke is, unfortunately, highly contagious.

Broke is, unfortunately, highly contagious.

Being broke is a pandemic that not only affects people like us, team. Businesses, particularly in large, progressive cities like New York also perpetuate a sense of ‘broke-ness’. It is essential to be able to recognize a broke ass business before it’s too late. Having the ability to recognize when something is amiss within a company can save you time, save you from stress and keep cash (the little bit you may have) in your wallet.

A broke-ass business can immediately be defined as a company that puts you to work on a daily or weekly basis but, for whatever reason, does not have the money to pay you on that inevitable 1st and 15th of the month. Broke-ass businesses generally exude a sense of shadiness, flakiness, mistreatment and bullshit excuses as to why there is a problem. In a world where the U.S. Government can shutdown, no one is safe. It’s very important today in the interview process to not only consider if a job/company is right for you but if they actually have enough money to pay you.  Fortunately, I have been through the ringer and I would like to share a few of the possible signs you could be applying for, or worse, working for a broke-ass business.

Years ago, I worked for a company where the owner waited until 6pm on Fridays to sign off on all paychecks so that we couldn’t cash them until Mondays, increasing his interest through the weekend while making us feel as though we were the greedy ones. Through fear, guilt and noticeably being absent from the office on payday, he managed to maintain this charade for months at a time. There were times where employees would simply wait until Monday because they could not stay late, providing an additional 48 hours in the event the paychecks would bounce (to my knowledge this never happened, but bounced checks are a clear sign of a broke-ass business). Within six months, my entire department had quit, not one individual was fired. Less than one year later, the company went out of business… shocker.

Mass hiring can be another red flag of a broke-ass business. One should always question a company that is suddenly hiring a handful of employees at a time (an exception is of course the holiday season where employees understand they are on a temporary/seasonal basis). In this instance, there was likely a mass firing or mass ‘quitting’ of former employees. History has a nasty habit of repeating itself so should this information be applicable to your situation, do not dismiss it. There likely was a common denominator or recurring theme most likely having to do with management or a lack thereof.

In addition, jobs or companies that do not pay employees for training are a prime example of what to look for in a broke-ass business. Restaurants, for example, albeit popular for artists/performers in New York due to the fast cash, tend to omit payment during the ‘training period’ which, in my experience, has lasted as long as three days. I am here to tell you, broke asses, this is illegal in the state of New York. I have contacted the New York State Department of Labor to confirm. (The only exception is independent contractors who are not legally obligated to be paid for training).

Last year, national news coverage taught us that broke-ass businesses are not limited to mom and pops, start-ups and hustlers. Big chains like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s have come under fire from labor advocacy groups as employees struggle to make ends meet. These companies exemplify a different type of ‘broke-ness’; although Wal-Mart’s CEO from 2009-2013, Michael Duke made “more in an hour than a full-time employee makes in a year” according to an article in Aljazeera, their business model is clearly broken and their employees are not valued, at least not monetarily. Aljazeera also reports that “The average worker makes $8.81 an hour forcing many to rely on taxpayer-funded public assistance programs to make ends meet.” I have received public assistance benefits in the form of Medicaid and Food Stamps and it is important to remember that these benefits are meant to be temporary or a ‘go-between’ during a hardship, not a way of life. This leads to the inevitable question, what will these employees do when these benefits run out?

If you’re a functioning adult like myself, you likely need a job to survive. However, keep in mind that simply “getting a job” is no longer a thoughtless task. Consider your needs along with the capacity of the company that you will ultimately be a part of. Be sure that it is worth your time, energy and effort as to not be taken advantage of. Remember that there is no point in working all the time and still being broke.

Photo Credit: Freddie Cosmo

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website BrokeAssStuart.com is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, Geek.com and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.

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