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Limited Pay Just One Problem Facing Low-Wage Workers


For low-wage workers in Syracuse…dangerous working conditions, high turnover and the inability to raise any concerns are part of their day-to-day life. SUNY Upstate's Occupatio

  nal Health Clinical Center released a study Monday entitled Low-Wage Work in Syracuse: Worker Health in the New Economy.  It found workers often aren’t comfortable to speak up about poor job conditions …project manager Jeannette Zoeckler says that can include intimidation or bullying.

“They don’t feel a sense that they could say anything or even speak up about it.  If they do feel that something isn’t fair, they’re so easily replaced  and the job is so tough to come by that it’s a little bit hard for them to even make a constructive comment.”

Workers also receive inadequate training, if any, for their positions.  Zoeckler says that’s coupled with an extremely high turnover rate.

“People are working not very long at these jobs.  They may have only work one or two years; 58 %of these people had only worked one or two years at their current job.  So there’s a constant expectation that they’ll have to find a new job, they’ll be a different job, there'll be a lot of changeover.” 


The conditions are having health impacts…About 38 percent of those surveyed report experiencing pain as a result of work. SUNY Upstate doctors like Michael Lax are trying to encourage them to seek out medical help in the event of injury.

“The workers there often don’t know about or don’t have access to health resources or other kinds of resources to help them out if they do have an illness or injury on the job.” 


High percentages of low-wage workers also reported being exposed to dust, chemicals, blood and bodily fluids regularly…that study authors say could be controlled or prevented.  The report further showed ways they’re denied compensation…15-% say they had to work off the clock, others were paid less than agreed upon, paid late or made nothing extra for working overtime.   

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.