Worker Voices: Fresno Residents on Work and Income

Blog Post
Aug. 18, 2020

In early 2020, New America CA's research team conducted in-depth interviews with 35 Fresno County residents employed in regionally prevalent industries, whose lives could be upended by job change or loss, due to the changing nature of work or tech-related shifts. Most of those interviewed were already experiencing some level of economic precarity and the interviews spanned topics both personal and professional. The conversations underscored how critical workers' voices are to unlocking solutions for both the present and future of work. Below are some examples of what respondents shared on the topic of Work and Income.

Read the executive summary brief here and the complete research findings here.

Rafael spoke of seeing three of his older colleagues quit out of fear rather than attend trainings for the new technology being implemented at work.

“Yes, they’re like, this is like the Jetsons. These changes should have been a long time ago, but they thought that the time was never going to come...and it did. And they literally said something that they wouldn’t ever tell their wives or daughters, but they were scared! Yes, I’m scared too, but we got to do it. You never know unless you try. And...I see them now and then, and two of them are still unemployed. Well, now I can’t see myself not knowing this technology now…not knowing this new way of working that’s actually easier. Look at this…I have less calluses on my hand than I did before. Before if you shook my hand it would cut you and it was like sandpaper. But now look at it, it’s relaxed. My nails are still ugly, but at least they’re clean.”

Caroline talked about the challenges of supporting a family on income from low-wage work.

“Our family struggles to make ends meet. Sometimes that means working two, three jobs to make it and you still have three, four dollars left in your bank account after you pay your bills and you buy food for your family.”

Kenneth shared his sense that employers value profit over the well-being of the people who work for them.

"{Businesses}…are always looking to just do what's right for themselves…They're all the same. I mean, it's just 'what can you do for me?'"

Serena discussed what she hopes for from her employer.

“I expect mutual respect. I expect to also have a voice…I want to feel like I'm included. I want to feel like I'm not just someone making you money. I want to feel like…you need me as well, as much as I need, you know, the job.”

* Names have been changed for privacy

Follow the provided links for interviewee perceptions of Family, Health and Safety, Post-Secondary Education, and Experiences of Fresno.