After a low-wage worker at a Days Inn in Pine Bluff, Arkansas spoke to the Washington Post about the perils of trying to make a living on the state's paltry minimum wage, she was fired by the hotel manager.
Last month, Shanna Tippen was profiled by Washington Post reporter Chicago Harlan for a story on the impact of the state wage increase from $7.25 to $7.50 an hour. For Tippen, a grandmother who supports her two unemployed children, the $0.25 minimum wage hike brought little relief to her paycheck-to-paycheck existence.
At the time, Harlan wrote:
This raise won’t pull her out of poverty. It won’t free her from enduring months when she can’t afford her electricity bills. But the extra $2 a day, the extra $520 a year, will mean she can buy Luvs diapers for her grandson, even the pricier kind that doesn’t irritate his sensitive skin.
"Not much difference," Tippen said of the raise, except for one product she buys twice a month. "The diapers, they’re $24.98 at Wal-Mart."
On Monday, Harlan reported that following the publication of his story, Tippen, who he describes as hard worker who had a "do-everything" job at the hotel, was fired by hotel manager Harry Patel.
"He said I was stupid and dumb for talking to [the Post]," Tippen told Harlan. "He cussed me and asked me why you wrote the article. I said, 'Because he’s a reporter; that’s what he does.' He said, 'it was wrong for me to talk to you.'"
In the original story, Patel is quoted as saying that he is against the wage hike. "Everybody wants free money in Pine Bluff," he reportedly said.
Now, Tippen says her family is living off a recent tax refund check and that she's looking for another job.
Harlan wrote in February that while politicians frame the minimum wage debate "in bold terms—a ticket to the middle class; a death knell for small businesses—Tippen’s experiences reflects a more realistic picture: a slight help for poor workers, but not the game-changer that politicians promise."
Only time would show how true that statement was.