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Waging a Living (2005)

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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 67 users   Metascore: 70/100
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The term "working poor" should be an oxymoron. If you work full time, you should not be poor, but more than 30 million Americans - one in four workers - are stuck in low wage jobs that do ... See full summary »

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The term "working poor" should be an oxymoron. If you work full time, you should not be poor, but more than 30 million Americans - one in four workers - are stuck in low wage jobs that do not provide the basics for a decent life. WAGING A LIVING chronicles the battle of four low-wage workers to lift their families out of poverty. Shot over a three-year period in the northeast and California, this observational documentary captures the dreams, frustrations, and accomplishments of a diverse group of workers who struggle to live from paycheck to paycheck. By presenting an unvarnished look at the barriers that these workers must overcome to escape poverty, WAGING A LIVING offers a sobering view of the elusive American Dream. Written by Anonymous

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12 March 2005 (USA)  »

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Taking a longer look at lives
28 February 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Waging a Living looks at the lives of several people who feel that it is difficult for themselves to get ahead or pay the bills even though they have full-time employment. A waitress, security guard, CNA and an elder care activity leader face the challenges of rising costs of living, raising dependent children, social services regulations and just plain life.

The documentary's strongest asset is that instead of the snapshots usually seen on the nightly news, these people are followed for several years so we can see the steady stream of immediate problems along with the slower solutions such as education, unionization and patient persistence.

Watching the movie filled me with a combination of gratitude for my own circumstances and insecurity from knowing that I am not too far away from living paycheck to paycheck myself.

My only concern about the film is that it is imbalanced by focusing on the external causes of their conditions but does not point out as much what choices these people made in the past to place themselves in these positions. For instance, we are not told why one person lost his job, or why disability claims were not taken earlier, or why they have so many children and so on. Then again, perhaps the filmmakers thought that "blaming the victim" was unwarranted.

Lastly, two of the four people are members of the same union, even though they live on different coasts, and are both shown as active union members. I wonder how these people came to be chosen for the documentary, and if their union somehow was involved in the making of the film.

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