An Arkansas woman claims she was fired from her minimum-wage job after speaking to a Washington Post reporter about living paycheck-to-paycheck on minimum wage, the Washington Post is reporting.
Shanna Tippen was barely scraping by, putting in long hours — at minimum wage — at the Days Inn and Suites in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She chugged to work in her 2003 Chrysler Sebring. At home, she often used candles and flashlights when her minimum-wage paycheck barely didn’t cover her electric bill. All the while, she was caring for her grandson.
Last month, she talked to Washington Post reporter Chico Harlan, who covers “people at the low end of the economy,” and spoke with him at length about her struggles, and about her support for a $.25/hour increase in Arkansas’ minimum wage.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, this is great.'”
Harlan also quoted Tippen’s then-boss, Herry Patel, who opposed increasing the minimum wage in Arkansas.
“[The referendum] was bad. Bad for Arkansas. Everybody wants free money in Pine Bluff.”
As it turns out, Patel was not pleased with the Washington Post reporter quoting him or interviewing one of his employees. The decision to speak to the reporter has now cost Shanna her job.
“[Patel] said I was stupid and dumb for talking to [the Post]. 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.'”
I worry about this happening every time I write about low-wage workers (or other vulnerable groups). http://t.co/I9dLjza8WB
— Ben Casselman (@bencasselman) March 30, 2015
Harlan insists that Patel initially approached him about the story, and even recommended that he speak to Tippen.
For his part, Herry Patel insists that Harlan was wrong to quote him or interview his employee, and had even threatened to sue the reporter.
“Several days later, after I’d spent additional time with Tippen, Patel called me and threatened to sue if an article was published.”
Harlan has since attempted to contact Patel about the Tippen’s firing, but so far he’s been met with silence and threats to call the police.
All of this back-and-forth is doing little to help Shanna Tippen. She’s now trying to make ends meet with her tax refund check — money that won’t last much longer — and trying desperately to find another dead-end, minimum-wage job.
[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock]