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On the corner

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On the corner a view of the lives of newspaper hawkers in Denver, Colorado
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Cammack, Sam
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English
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99 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Newspaper vendors -- Social conditions -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 94-99).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Sam Cammack.

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University of Florida
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ocm45552981
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LD1190.L43 2000m .C35 ( lcc )

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Full Text
ON THE CORNER
A VIEW OF THE LIVES OF NEWSPAPER HAWKERS IN DENVER,
COLORADO
by
Sam Cammack
B.A., Mississippi State University, 1995
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Anthropology
2000


2000 by Sam Cammack
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Sam Cammack
has been approved
by
-1
Date
Stephen Koester


Cammack, Sam (M.A. Anthropology)
On the Comer: A View of the Lives of Newspaper Hawkers in Denver, Colorado
Thesis directed by Professor Kitty K. Corbett
ABSTRACT
This research focuses on the lives of newspaper hawkers in Denver, Colorado
to determine the factors behind why individuals turn to informal forms of
employment in times of economic prosperity. Newspaper hawking, here defined as
publicly selling newspapers on medians at street intersections and street comers to
passersby, has become a viable option for individuals in Denver who feel that formal
forms of work are either unavailable or undesirable to them. However, this form of
work is stigmatized in mainstream society, as the work is often equated with public
begging and the earnings are low.
This work examines the lives and job histories of hawkers selling papers for
the two daily newspapers in Denver, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News.
Four common themes arise in these hawkers lives that have led them to hawking:
having a lack of marketable job skills, being physically disabled, being too old, or not
having a fixed address. Each of these factors has laid a significant roadblock in front
of these hawkers attempts to make it in the formal, nine-to-five world.
Through the words of the hawkers, one can see how informal jobs such as
hawking are essential to individuals and the economy at large. First, hawking
provides many individuals with a viable employment option for maintaining
economic survival. Second, it provides other individuals with an informal option to
help supplement their earnings in the formal workforce. Third, it eliminates some of
the need that many individuals have on public assistance through its guaranteed
payment each day.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.
Signed
IV


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Many thanks must go out to my advisor, Kitty Corbett, and to rest of my committee,
John Brett and Stephen Koester, for their continued advice and support through these
past few months. I also must extend extreme thanks to my mother and father, and
most importantly to my wife Dana, who have encouraged me throughout the process
and kept me on track when my wheels were spinning. In addition, I would like to
thank each of the hawkers who contributed to this work for their kindness and insight.
Without their help, this work would not exist.


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION..............................................1
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE..................................4
The Concept of Work....................................6
Job Loss and Unemployment.............................15
Factors Behind Difficulty in Reentering the Workforce.19
Unskilled Workers...............................19
Disability......................................22
Age.............................................27
Homelessness....................................29
Public Policy Problems..........................32
The Informal Economy..................................33
Thoughts on the Literature............................35
3. METHODOLOGY..............................................39
4. FINDINGS.................................................50
Factors Behind Hawking................................50
Alcoholism and Hawking................................59
Hawkers and Beggars a Clear Difference..............61
Day to day lives of Hawkers...........................63
Out on the Comer......................................67
Success and Failure at Hawking........................73
Hawking Presence and Safety in Denver.................77
How People Find Out About Hawking.....................81
5. CONCLUDING THOUGHTS......................................84
6. POSTSCRIPT...............................................91
BIBLIOGRAPHY....................................................94
vi


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Denver, Colorado is a city on the rise a place where the economy is
booming, people are flocking to live, and the atmosphere in general is pleasant and
welcoming. As one drives along the major streets of the city, one sees signs of
economic progress such as new homes and businesses being built, roads being
expanded, and older homes being redone in many neighborhoods. Through these
images, Denver looks like a center of economic and social prosperity. However, as
one continues to drive along the bustling city streets, one will end up seeing a
different picture numerous untidy men and women standing on medians at busy
intersections displaying copies of the two metro newspapers for sale. The newspaper
hawkers presence typically marks a noted contrast between their surroundings and
their situation: bustling urban and suburban growth and prosperity against poverty
and day-to-day survival.
Many questions surround the hawkers presence in the city. In a community
enjoying the economic success of Denver, why are there hundreds of individuals out
on street comers and medians selling newspapers? Arent there better paying,
normal jobs available? Why would someone choose to hawk newspapers? What
are the demographics of the hawkers, and how do their backgrounds contribute to
hawkers current situations? Why do the newspapers in Denver use hawkers to sell
newspapers in the metro area? How can a hawker be financially successful? How do
hawkers fit into the local economy, which for the most part has forced them out onto
1


the margins?
This research also sheds light on the broader issues dealing with the
anthropology of work and how people value different types of work in this society.
As the research shows in the hawkers words, we assign certain values and status to
different forms of work. Hawking is stigmatized by mainstream society. Legitimate
work is often seen as steady, nine-to-five employment, with regular pay, job
security, and benefits maintaining employee loyalty to the company. Hawking cannot
lay claim to any of these common perceptions of employment. The work is not
guaranteed, the hours depend on the day, the only regular pay is a show-up fee, and
there are no benefits nor any company loyalty. However, many hawkers consider this
legitimate work, and this research supports their claim.
So what makes a job legitimate or stigmatized? Why does a person choose a
marginal job when there are theoretically many standard jobs available in the local
economy? How do these jobs fit the needs of individuals who feel that they are not
viable candidates in the traditional working world? Are hawkers trying to gain some
sense of success while they struggle to survive? At the bottom line, how does the
work done by hawkers shed light on our system and conceptions of work?
In addition, this research breaks apart the common stereotype given to
hawkers and other public peddlers: that of the homeless drunk or indigent trying to
earn money for alcohol and other narcotics. My own misconceptions of alcoholism,
transience, and general disconnection caused by the visual images projected by
hawkers on the medians as representing a monolithic type of marginal individual in
2


American society were shattered by the diversity of current situations and
backgrounds represented by the hawkers I interviewed.
As I saw in the words of the hawkers themselves, I was not alone in my
preconceptions. Several hawkers complained of having passersby yell out, Get a
job! while they were selling papers. Hawking is often equated with public begging,
even though a hawker is exchanging a viable product for money as opposed to simply
asking for money without any use of human energy. What hawking shows is that
these people are willing to earn money to survive, contrary to public opinion.
Second, it shows that unskilled work does not always mirror popular perception.
Hawking does not involve tough, physically demanding labor, a common stereotype
given to blue-collar and unskilled work.
This research explores the lives of hawkers in Denver and how their roles as
hawkers are shaped by mainstream societys expectations of low-skilled work. Thus,
it is necessary to begin with a review of the literature concerning the anthropology of
work, as well as dealing with homelessness and other urban problems. This thesis
starts with a look at the methodology being used to answer the questions of why
people use newspaper hawking as employment and why they choose stigmatized
informal means of work over theoretically available traditional ones. Demographic
information and an overview of the daily working life of hawkers will be given,
before concluding with a discussion of the micro- and macro-level issues behind the
phenomenon of newspaper hawking.
3


CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Working is central to individual identity in Western society. We are defined
by our work, and most individuals take being able to work for granted. In areas
where the economy is strong and jobs are plentiful, the fact that there are unemployed
individuals in the community with few options for work seems astonishing.
However, because of their lack of success in finding work, many people in Denver,
Colorado and other metropolitan areas in the United States are forced into informal
avenues for obtaining employment. One avenue for earning money is through
newspaper hawking.
Even with a strong economy and various available jobs, both micro and
macro-level reasons exist for why many individuals either are not able to work or are
only able to work on a part-time basis. The first of these is a lack of skills on the part
of the potential employee. In the emerging information-based economy, unskilled
workers have seen their opportunities and power in the workforce diminish. As the
global economy continues to grow, many employers of unskilled labor are leaving the
United States and venturing to developing nations to earn greater profits from lower
wages and poorer working conditions in these countries.
Disability is a second major factor. Individuals who have either a physical or
mental disability are limited in the types of work they may pursue, as a disability
either limits the tasks that one can accomplish or affects an individuals ability to
negotiate many work environments. Improvements, such as the passing of the
4


Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, have been made in the ability of the
disabled to gain work, but many individuals still face extreme hardship when
attempting to obtain a permanent position.
A third factor is age. Frequently older workers, primarily those who are
unskilled or low-skilled, are terminated from their workplaces because of budgetary
trimming on the part of corporations. Older workers jobs often are the first to be
trimmed, because younger workers can be found who can be paid less to perform the
same job. After losing work, older workers may find themselves out of luck because
often they are seen as unemployable because of their age, limited skills, or wage
required to live in the same manner as before. With this difficulty, many older
workers find themselves in early retirement with no excess money to provide for the
future.
A fourth factor leading to unemployment and underemployment is
homelessness. Being homeless puts a significant strain on the individual, both
physically and mentally, which then limits the productive ability of a potential
worker. In addition, homeless individuals often are disabled, older, and/or unskilled.
Being homeless merely exacerbates the conditions that one faces when dealing with a
dim working future. Each of these factors plays a significant part in why many
individuals cannot find or hold stable full-time work and must turn to other options,
such as governmental assistance or newspaper hawking.
A final factor leading to employment problems for hawkers is the fact that our
society is not set up to accommodate full employment. Regrettably, unemployment is
5


a necessary side effect of the various forces present in the capitalist system (Yates
1994: 70). In addition, the conservative actions of many public policy leaders have
not helped matters for the unemployed and underemployed. Too much emphasis has
been placed on forcing individuals to find their own solutions to their working crises
and not enough support given to job-placement and skill-improving programs. This
study proves that the work ethic is still alive and well at the bottom levels of the
workforce, and that the popular perception that the poor are lazy and wasteful is
incorrect.
Newspaper hawkers often deal with one or more of these factors. This section
is designed to give the theoretical framework necessary to elucidate why individuals
turn to low-wage part-time positions such as hawking. It is therefore essential to look
at how the concept of work is defined, and how crucial work is to individuals in our
society. In addition, this section will examine the five barriers to work listed above
and how each barrier affects the individual. Lastly, the literature regarding informal
methods of employment will be discussed to clarify how crucial the informal
economy is for low-income members of Western society.
The Concept of Work
Work is the central organizing principle by which individuals structure their
lives (Pappas 1989: 75). It can be defined as the expenditure of energy to accomplish
a goal, with some sacrifice of time, comfort, and leisure (Wallman 1979: 4). Marx
saw work as developing the bare essence of a human being through production (Mills
6


1951: 218). Work is about control: control over nature, over fellow people, and over
financial capital. Many of the socio-cultural factors behind work are concerned with
how one person or group of people has control over another, whether it be immediate
control through directing the actions of others or by indirect means through limiting
or devaluing the resources available to others (Wallman 1979: 2). In virtually every
job, an employee sells a part of his/her independence; his/her working life is under
the control of others; and his/her skills are dependent upon how another wishes for
them to be used (Mills 1951: 224). In addition, an individuals self-esteem may be
reliant upon how one is able to use social power while working (Mills 151: 232).
By working, an individual fulfills two societal obligations: financial
sustainability and social inclusion. Workers exchange their time and energy for
financial compensation, which in turn allows them to sustain their nutritional, and
social needs. For many individuals in Western society, the purpose of work is to earn
enough to provide for individual and familial needs. However, the second obligation
holds as much relevance as the first. Friedman and Havighurst identify four social
functions of full-time work: 1) to regulate life-activity; 2) to provide a sense of
identity for an individual; 3) to establish important social relationships with others;
and 4) to provide meaningful life experiences (Friedman and Havighurst 1954; cited
in Alexander and Kaye 1997: 34-35). Work gives an individual a daily schedule and
routine to live by. Labor specialization provides an individual with an identity that is
central to his/her being (Wallman 1979: 13). We are identified by the types of work
we perform. A persons work gives one a fate in life; one that is as important as
7


choosing a mate (Hughes 1958: 43). That identity is confirmed by using loaded value
words when work is discussed among colleagues (Hughes 1958: 44). Work also
allows us to interact with other individuals and to set up close relationships with
others. Lastly, it gives us meaningful memories that can be transferred to other
people.
Work has been a significant point of study for urban anthropology and
sociology since the early twentieth century, beginning with studies examining the
effects of urbanism upon individuals. Through these studies, we have been able to
see the social connection between work, the individual, and society. Max Weber was
one of the first modem individuals to examine the culture of cities (Sennett 1969: 5).
He looked at cities as whole entities and stated that individuals living in cities were
dependent upon the purchasing power of other consumers (Weber 1969 [1921]: 26).
That is, if an individual has a trade of some value to others, that individual has a
greater ability to be financially successful. He saw cities as whole representations of
the economic opportunities of their occupants. That is, one can identify a locale by
the dominant forms of production that take place within its boundaries. For example,
one can identify Pittsburgh with the steel mills, or New York City with its financial
district.
Webers concepts were further elaborated by a group of researchers from the
University of Chicago, in what has been referred to as the Chicago School. Several
prominent voices have emerged from this setting, and their research laid the
groundwork for future work done in urban studies. The Chicago school arose out of a
8


need to challenge Webers belief of the city as a whole; instead they wished to
examine individual aspects that make up a city and how each facet relates to one
another (Sennett 1969: 12). Robert Park, considered by many to be the first voice of
the Chicago school, noted that the economic organization of the city is based on the
division of labor. The multiplication of occupations and professions within the limits
of the urban population is one of the most striking and least understood aspects of
modern city life (Park 1969 [1916]: 92). Employment specialization broke down the
previous forms of identification, which were based on familial relations or caste and
supplanted them with one based on vocation (Park 1969 [1916]: 102). Park states
that all individuals, even beggars, identify themselves by a profession. Through these
professions, individuals form social organizations that tie them to their community
(Park 1969 [1916]: 102). Park and his colleagues did much to shed light on urban life
and the employment opportunities for the citys inhabitants. They also helped turn
attention towards urban poverty. A great deal of their effort was focused on how the
lack of sufficient work has depressed local economies (Wilson 1996: 17).
In many cases, these studies on urban poverty and the lack of work in
depressed areas focused on how a lack of education and marketable skills led to
employment difficulties for individuals. Labor specialization creates an imbalance of
power in society based on ones job title and experience. As a society, we value
certain types of work over others. Education, experience, and contacts all play a part
in how society values various occupations. How one values one form of work over
/
another depends on the values of the society in which one lives as well as ones status
9


within the society (Wallman 1979: 8). Where ones status rests is crucial to identity
and how one values others, as it limits or expands ones access to resources and
determines whom one will interact with on a working and social basis.
An individual makes many choices in life and gamers the skills necessary to
move in a certain direction in the workforce and in the social and economic hierarchy
(Hughes 1958: 44). That persons choices are limited by several conditions, most
notably his/her amount of social knowledge available at the time of a crucial decision.
Bourdieu refers to this social knowledge as capital (Mahar et al. 1990: 13). Capital
acts as a form of social relation within an exchange, and the term may be used for all
the goods, material and symbolic, without distinction, that present themselves as rare
and worthy of being sought after in a particular social formation (Bourdieu 1977:
178). It contains material things, symbolic capital (prestige, authority, status), and
cultural capital (culturally-valued consumption and taste patterns) (Mahar et al. 1990:
13).
The capital that one possesses plays a significant part in how successful one
will be in the job market. Individuals of upper-class origin will inherit substantially
different cultural capital than those in working-class origin (MacLeod 1987: 12).
Schools and society in general reward the capital held by those in the upper classes
and devalue the capital held by the working class. In school, children who acquire
linguistic and cultural competence characteristic of the upper class from their family
upbringing have greater success than those who do not have a similar background do.
As one grows older, this competence evolves into an array of skills that allows an
10


individual to become successful in the workforce. Those who have skills, primarily
white-collar skills, typically are successful socially and financially. Those without
skills commonly end up either in low-paying jobs or unemployed.
Along with capital, Bourdieu introduces the concept of habitus, which may be
defined as the ideas, beliefs, and attitudes that help define ones world (MacLeod
1987: 13). The amalgamation of deeply internalized beliefs helps shape an
individuals attitudes towards all parts of life. As stated previously, working class
beliefs are not accentuated in the educational system and in society. As a result of
this invalidation of their values in the classroom, working class students often learn
the belief that they have little chance for success (MacLeod 1987: 13). Thus, their
aspirations toward success may be leveled, opening the door for failure in adult life.
They then are pushed into the secondary labor market; one that is characterized by
short-term employment, low wages, constant instability, and little chance for upward
mobility (Eames and Goode 1980: 282). In short, they have a life of dead-end jobs in
front of them.
Bourdieus concepts of capital and habitus limit the possibilities of human
agency (MacLeod 1987: 14). His theory leaves little opportunity for individual
determinism and non-conformity. There is no escaping the symbolic order that
society forces upon the individual. This is one side of the long-standing debate about
the causal factors behind poverty, whether society in general or the individual is at
fault for ones dire situation (Auletta 1982: 31). Many social scientists, most notably
behaviorists, feel that individual factors, such as personal attitudes, are the reasons for
11


individual poverty (Auletta 1982: 34).
One of the traditional individual viewpoints regarding the poor is that they are
destitute because, in their eyes, it is easier to go without income than to perform the
work needed to obtain it (Sackrey 1973: 25). Thus, they are poor by choice (Snow
and Anderson 1993: 253). This simple-minded view of urban poverty obviously
ignores the many factors that affect an individuals income, such as parental family
status, ethnicity, education, and region of residence (Sackrey 1973: 25). In addition,
the overwhelming majority of homeless are not in that condition by choice (Snow and
Anderson 1993: 253). Snow and Anderson found that in their sample of 63 homeless
individuals in Austin, Texas, only 6.3 percent were homeless by choice.
Another fallacious argument is Banfields belief that the poor are poor
because of their lower-class behavior patterns (Banfield 1970; cited in Sackrey
1973: 26). He gives a few examples of this behavior that are accurate: the inability to
keep a job, maintain regular hours, submit to discipline, or stick with training
programs. In Banfields eyes, the poor are too busy living for the present to try to
change their situation and enter the middle class. The problem with this argument is
that it is a value judgment, and it does not give any causal factors for these lower-
class behavior patterns.
A more popular explanation is one that focuses on individual disabilities or
pathologies that can leave someone vulnerable to poverty and/or homelessness (Snow
and Anderson 1993: 256). Several disabilities such as mental illness, poor physical
health, alcoholism, and drug addiction contribute to poor economic conditions for
12


individuals. Another factor is the loss of familial and social support networks. Many
individuals who are either poor or homeless do not have a support system to fall back
on in times of dire need. Others have simply exhausted their support networks
through their long-term behavior. In other words, those with chronic mental illness,
severe alcoholism, and criminal records do not make good housemates and are eased
out from under the protective wing of their relatives and friends (Rossi 1989: 179;
cited in Snow and Anderson 1993: 256).
Others, such as Bourdieu, argue that societal factors are too burdensome to
overcome in dealing with poverty and other economic and cultural difficulties. In his
work with poor Latin American families, Lewis wrote that the traits existent in the
culture of poverty transfer from generation to generation because the individual is
surrounded by them from youth onward and cannot act upon any factors that could
lead him/her out of the dire situation (Lewis 1975 [1966]: 394-395). While Bourdieu
and Lewiss beliefs go against the American ideal of pulling oneself up by the
bootstrap, they are clearly witnessed in several examples in the literature written in
this country. In Liebows seminal work Tallys Corner, a neighborhood of poor
black men struggle with the fact that they have no entree into the middle class world,
having to deal with unrewarding marginal jobs or unemployment (Liebow 1967: 60).
Each individual comes to the job with a long history characterized by his not being
able to support himself and his family. Each man carries this knowledge, bom of his
experience, with him. He comes to the job flat and stale, wearied by the sameness of
it all, convinced of his own incompetence, terrified of responsibility of being tested
13


still again and found wanting (Liebow 1967: 53-54). They are unable to elevate
themselves from their marginal status because of their lack of capital necessary to do
so. Their lack of schooling and skills keeps them from gamering well-paying work.
While this shows the structural forces working on each individual to keeping him/her
down, there is a considerable internalization of blame being given by the individual
for his/her status. As a result, many individuals level their aspirations and accept
low-status positions as their only option (MacLeod 1987: 113). In doing so, they
perpetuate the economic patterns that keep the privileged wealthy and the
marginalized desolate.
In MacLeods work with poor urban youth, he found that while in school
many of the youth had high expectations upon entering the job market, only to have
those dreams fade soon after graduating from school (MacLeod 1987: 127).
Substandard environmental conditions and poor academic performances have
hindered their ability to find rewarding work. However, they ignore the external
forces working against them and focus on their own failure instead.
Bourgois finds the same conditions in present-day East Harlem with young
Puerto Rican males. Previous generations of workers were able to rely upon a
continuous amount of blue-collar industrial labor that was available in the city
(Bourgois 1995 : 114). These jobs have been phased out over the past four decades as
the national economy has shifted from an industrial to a service economy. With
many of these young men leaving school at an early age to begin earning money, they
have backed themselves into a comer as the industrial jobs disappear from the urban
14


landscape. They are forced into a legal service sector, where their cultural capital has
little ground to use for leverage in finding rewarding work, or into an array of menial
jobs that are recognized to be the least desirable in the employment spectrum
(Bourgois 1995: 115). As a result, many of them must rely upon informal means of
economic support, most notably drug trafficking. While many of these young men
would prefer to make it in the legit world, they are faced with possessing cultural
deficiencies in a working society that asks for middle-class values and conformity.
They also must deal with menial jobs that do not provide enough money to sustain
oneself in a high-cost urban society.
As stated before, work has a stabilizing effect upon the individual. Through
full-time work, the individual gains a sense of security, as well as identity, social
contacts, and experience. Part-time work decreases the level of each of these factors,
which can have advantageous or deleterious effects on the individual. However, job
loss and unemployment typically erode each of these stabilizing factors associated
with work that an individual depends on for survival in society.
Job Loss and Unemployment
Losing a job can be one of the most traumatic events in an individuals life.
Several factors can cause job loss. First, our capitalist economic system cannot
handle zero unemployment (Yates 1994: 69). The federal government can reduce the
amount of unemployment through fiscal and monetary policies, such as social
spending on employment-generating programs. However, as employment levels soar,
15


so do inflation levels (Yates 1994: 70). These high levels of inflation cause unrest in
the financial world, as high prices reduce the monetary value of loans offered by
banks. Thus, the financial community will attempt to put pressure on the government
to enact policies that will reduce the inflation levels, such as cutting government
spending and raising taxes. When these policies are enacted, they often lead to
reduced spending by the general population. Reduced spending in turn causes a
lowering of the need for workers to produce goods and services. As a result, fewer
jobs are needed to maintain the smooth flow of the capitalist system, forcing
thousands of people out of the workforce and into dire straits.
Job loss is the single greatest fear of Americans (Korten 1995: 22). Only 51
percent of American non-managerial employees feel secure in their positions, down
from 75 percent ten years ago (Korten 1995: 22). There are good reasons to have
such fear. Much of the order present in our lives leaves upon becoming unemployed
(Pappas 1989: 75). Job loss has a negative effect on virtually every indicator of
mental and physical health (Leana and Feldman 1992: 5). Several studies have found
that an individuals mental health declines after losing work. People who have lost
their jobs have been found to have greater anxiety, depression, unhappiness, or
dissatisfaction with life in general. Unemployed individuals typically have lower
self-esteem, display shorter tempers, and are more pessimistic about the future. They
suffer from increased boredom, a loss of a sense of time and structure, social
isolation, and increased feelings of apathy and passivity (Leana and Feldman 1992:
59). In addition, one loses his/her sense of identity upon receiving a pink slip. Ones
16


original feelings of competence and stability are replaced by feelings of incompetence
and instability (Pappas 1989: 82). Reemployment, while it does reestablish a
personal identity, frequently involves a lowering of status (Pappas 1989: 79).
Ones physical health declines after being laid off from work (Ashton and
Maguire 1991: 50). Job loss has the greatest influence upon psychosomatic illnesses,
such as sleeping and eating disorders, headaches, listlessness, and overuse of
sedatives (Leana and Feldman 1992: 5). It also contributes to physical problems such
as increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, palpitations, and ulcers that can lead to
major illnesses. Stress is another major concern of the recently unemployed.
Continuous stress caused by job loss can lead to deteriorating psychological health, as
well as heart disease and ulcers (Leana and Feldman 1992: 11).
Along with the health related problems that job loss may cause, the loss of
income from work creates serious problems with which the individual must deal.
Frequently, the greatest troubles a laid-off worker has are the loss of income and
ensuing financial hardship (Leana and Feldman 1992: 187). In work done with
former steel workers in Pennsylvania and former space program white-collar workers
in Florida, Leana and Feldman found that not having the income to maintain ones
living and recreational expenses placed the most significant hardship on the displaced
worker when compared to physical and emotional problems.
Job loss does not merely affect the individual. Ones family feels the brunt of
the hardship as well. Layoffs typically stress marriages, as the spouse has to work
longer hours and cut household expenditures (Leana and Feldman 1992: 188).
17


However, most research has been done on changes in employment conditions among
spouses and family members. Not enough research has been done on specific
emotional and psychological effects of job loss to family members.
Each of these factors places an extra burden on the individual as s/he attempts
to return to the workforce. As pressures increase and overwhelm an unemployed
individual, a feeling of helplessness may overcome him/her. One may begin feeling
that any action on his/her part will result in little, if any, change (Leana and Feldman
1992: 57). One may see his/her life flying out of control, with outside actions having
the only effect. Over time, searching for a job may seem futile as debilitating factors
increase their control over the individual. Studies have shown that the longer an
individual is without work, the more intensely s/he will see the job loss as
irreversible.
Frequently, a recently laid-off worker will reenter the workforce by taking a
job that is not as good as the last (Leana and Feldman 1992: 97). Underemployment
often results in a worker taking a full-time job that pays less than his/her previous one
or a part-time job, such as newspaper hawking. Along with not being able to earn as
much money as full-time work, part-time workers have the added disadvantage of
being offered few if any benefits, such as health insurance or a retirement plan.
These problems do not necessarily occur in every case. Some individuals find
that losing work is rewarding and gives them a more control over their direction in
life. They are able to reenter the workforce without difficulty and actually benefit
from being terminated. However, several reasons make finding reentry into the
18


workforce difficult for other individuals. A lack of skills, disability, age,
homelessness, and ignorance on the part of public policy leaders towards the poor
increase the burden placed upon the applicant.
Factors Behind Difficulty in Reentering the Workforce
Unskilled workers
Having a lack of skills is often the primary factor leading to unemployment
and instability. In 1991, two million adults worked full-time throughout the year but
remained poor despite their efforts (Levitan, Gallo, and Shapiro 1993: 3). Another
7.2 million worked either part-time jobs or part of the year in full-time jobs. Most of
these working poor are individuals who have few to no skills relevant to holding a
meaningful position. Because of limited full-time openings or because of workers
limited job options, low wages, or an inadequate possession of relevant skills, these
individuals continue to have low earnings.
Unskilled workers had better opportunities for earning in previous decades.
During the second World War, unskilled workers earned high wages as a result of
other workers joining the armed services, as well as an increased need for wartime
munitions (Schwartzman 1997: 67). As a result, the cost of hiring unskilled workers
rose. After the end of the war, many skilled workers began using subsidies in higher
education to learn skills that could help them outpace the unskilled. Businesses began
hiring the skilled over the unskilled. As industry became computerized over the past
19


few decades, the demand for unskilled work decreased even further.
As a result, there has been an increase in the number of individuals who are
poorly educated and either unemployed or working part-time or temporary jobs in
recent years (Wilson 1996: 26). In the 1970s, two-thirds of working-age males who
had not finished high school were working in full time positions during eight out of
the 10 years. In the 1980s, only half were. In the inner cities, this number was even
lower. This trend has helped widen the gap between the wealthy and the poor. In
1990, the average salary for a typical corporate chief executive officer was 100 times
the salary of the average worker, whereas a decade earlier, it was 29 times higher
(Burbach et al. 1997: 98). From 1989 to 1993, the typical American household lost
seven percent of its income. Fifteen percent of the American population lived in
poverty in 1993, with one million Americans joining that category in that year alone.
The emergence of the global economy and an increase in immigration also has
had deleterious effects on the unskilled. International trade has cut deeply into
unskilled employment (Schwartzman 1997: 95). Dramatic changes in investment,
production, and employment have occurred in the United States as a result of the
opening of the global market (Devine and Wright 1993: 33). As corporations are
closing manufacturing and assembly plants across the nation and moving them to
underdeveloped countries to reduce costs, the unskilled are bearing the brunt of the
burden through lay-offs (Schwartzman 1997: 95). They now have to compete with
1.4 billion unskilled workers in other countries. In addition, increased immigration
has affected the status of the unskilled worker by increasing the unskilled population
20


by as much as three times (Schwartzman 1997: 71). In larger cities, where the
majority of the unskilled live, the percentage is much greater.
It is clear that educational and skill deficiencies lead to the employment
difficulties for poor workers (Levitan, Gallo, and Shapiro 1993: 20). The U.S.
Census Bureau reported that in 1990, 40 percent of the working poor do not have a
high school diploma. As a result, they are relegated to the lower levels of the
occupation list. There are a large number of jobs available to the working poor, but
an overwhelming majority of these jobs is in service, low-skilled blue collar, and
agricultural positions. These jobs typically are at the bottom of the American pay
scale, with many falling below the minimum wage mandated by the government. In
addition, these low paying jobs often lack a support system, such as health insurance,
that could help a worker should a debilitating injury occur during his/her lifetime. If
this happens, the worker is forced to fend for his/her self to try to pay the mountain of
medical bills that come with a major injury. This is extremely difficult to accomplish
when one is making a low wage and has no way of saving money for future needs.
Another problem for the unskilled worker is the fact that most unskilled
positions do not have the possibility of further advancement. A lack of marketable
skills gives a worker limited opportunities for advancement to higher paying and
higher status jobs. Instead, he/she is forced to be productive at a low wage until
he/she is no longer needed by the company or until finding a similar job elsewhere.
Having a lack of skills makes job attainment difficult and well-paying job attainment
virtually impossible.
21


In addition, unskilled workers are often the first to join the ranks of the
unemployed. People in lower status positions are at the greatest risk upon losing
work (Ashton and Maguire 1991: 52). They worry the most about losing their
income, because with the threat of unemployment comes the threat of poverty and
possible homelessness. In Britain, a study found that half of the unemployed had
incomes in the bottom fifth of the earnings distribution prior to being terminated.
Whereas a terminated white-collar worker can survive on savings for a period of time,
the low-skilled or unskilled worker is faced with immediate financial trouble.
Disability
Disability can be defined as any chronic physical or mental incapacity
resulting from injury, disease, or congenital defect (Goldenson, Dunham, and
Dunham 1978: xvii). It also can be seen as a social concept. An individual can be
viewed as being disabled when one is unable or limited in the ability to perform
certain tasks that society expects one to perform (Coudroglou and Poole 1984: 6).
Physical disability affects every part of ones participation in society. An individual
disabled as an adult is forced to reconstruct the world in order to fit new needs created
by the disability.
One of the domains to be re-created is the world of work. This can present a
tremendous difficulty for the individual as the working environment is often the least
plastic of the public domains that a disabled individual faces. As a result, many
disabled people must deal with tremendous obstacles in finding work.
22


The Current Population Survey reported that in 1994, 10.4 million people
were unable to work (LaPlante 1995: 2). An additional 6.3 million were limited in
the amount of work they could do because of a physical disability. What is most
significant about these statistics besides the sheer numbers of the disabled population
is that in 1990, the number of people who were unable to work was 6.7 million while
another 7.4 million were limited in their ability to work, an increase of 2.6 million
people. In addition, the percentage of people who are limited in their working ability
has risen from nine percent in 1981 to 10 percent in 1994.
There also is a significant amount of growth in the Social Security Disability
Insurance program (SSDI) and in the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI),
two cash payment-based programs that are designed to help individuals who cannot
meet their financial needs because of disability and other problems. The number of
awards of SSDI and SSI has doubled between 1982 and 1993. SSDI awards went
from 300,000 a year to 640,000 in that time; likewise, SSI awards almost tripled from
205,000 in 1982 to 571,000 in 1993. Undoubtedly, both programs have increased
their awards since that time.
The majority of disabled do not work (Coudroglou and Poole 1984: 35). As a
result, they are dependent upon these two programs, as well as Medicare, Medicaid,
Workers Compensation, and for those who qualify, Disabled Veterans programs. The
first two programs give a recipient a monthly supply of money to use for living
expenses. The last four help with medical expenses, but frequently do not cover all of
the medical needs of a disabled person, particularly those who are disabled to the
23


extent they can no longer work and successfully support themselves.
The disabled who are able to work are most likely to work in part-time
positions. They typically earn lower wages than their able-bodied counterparts
holding similar positions (Oi 1991: 31). Oi gives two hypotheses to account for the
low levels of employment among disabled persons. First, medical impairments and
limitations in working ability reduce productivity. People who have disabilities
frequently require lighter work due to possible physical strain. Disability also steals
time from an individual. Disabled persons require more sleep and need more time for
personal care, chores, the daily commute, and for visits to doctors and hospitals.
They may also take more time to recover from illnesses. Second, employers are
typically uninformed about the production levels of the disabled. They do not know
how much productivity a disabled person can attain. They also do not know how the
physical workplace affects a disabled worker and how it can be adapted to fit the
needs of this worker. As a result, these two factors can lead to discrimination against
disabled individuals in the workforce.
Many jobs, especially unskilled positions, require physical effort to perform
the required work. Disabled persons typically have more difficulty performing these
tasks because of physical limitations. These limitations virtually exclude unskilled
disabled persons from the only opportunities that were open to them before their
disability. As a result, many of them are forced out of the workforce and into
financial and emotional instability. They are also forced to rely upon public support
in the form of SSI, SSDI, and other programs.
24


In Phoenix, Arizona, a program entitled People United for Self Help, Inc.
(PUSH) began in 1970 to help disabled workers meet their financial needs
(Coudroglou and Poole 1984: 56). Its founder discovered that most of the disabled
workers in the area were not receiving any financial compensation for their injury.
They either did not have the knowledge about their legal rights or did not have the
access to proper health care, thereby limiting the medical evidence that could support
their claims.
From May 1974 to January 1982, PUSH saw 2,280 clients who had worked in
48 types of jobs or did not work at all and later needed some form of assistance due to
disability (Coudroglou and Poole 1984: 75-76). Almost 95 percent of those clients
previously worked in unskilled or low-skilled positions before sustaining an injury.
Nearly 97 percent of these clients did not hold union membership while employed. In
addition, the authors note that it seemed safe to assume that before sustaining an
injury, a large majority of these workers could only maintain a subsistence level of
living on their wages (Coudroglou and Poole 1984: 77). After being injured,
maintaining their lives must have been an extreme hardship for most of these clients.
Some legal progress has been made since that time. The Americans with
Disabilities Act was created in 1990 and was the most significant expansion of civil
rights law since the 1960s (Levitan, Gallo, and Shapiro 1993: 79). It has been seen as
the culmination of years of work that began two decades before as the disabled began
asserting their equal rights as American citizens. The ADAs employment provisions
prohibit discrimination against disabled persons in all aspects of the employment
25


process, including practices dealing with hiring and firing. It states that employers of
more than 15 persons are required by law to make appropriate accommodations that
are necessary for a disabled employee to successfully gain and maintain a position in
the workplace when those changes do not create undue hardship on the employer.
While this has given disabled persons a better shot at reentering the work force, their
path still is not a smooth one. By having to deal with the cost of accommodating
disabled workers, employers often are forced to shift the financial burden of
accommodation onto the consumer, thereby potentially losing customers who may
balk at a higher price for goods (Weaver 1991: 15). This could keep employers from
potentially hiring the disabled. This higher cost of accommodation can discriminate
against the unskilled disabled worker even more because of the low amount of
financial support that employers typically put into unskilled work. Because of this
low level of investment on the part of an employer, an unskilled worker cannot make
his/her contribution worthy of the cost required to maintain employment.
However, the ADA has made inroads for many disabled workers. Disabled
workers who possess relevant job skills are successful in integrating themselves into
the workforce. Yet, this is not the case for their unskilled counterparts. Disabled
individuals who are unskilled face extreme hardship, as the ADAs policies have not
reached the doubly handicapped (Burkhauser 1993: 205). Poor education typically
leads to poor employment options and earnings. Individuals with skills are quickly
leaving the unskilled behind. Thus, an unskilled disabled worker must compete
against the able-bodied that are both skilled and unskilled, as well as against disabled
26


workers who are skilled. It is very easy to see how the doubly disabled are quickly
left behind.
Age
Increased attention has been given to the phenomenon of older workers in
recent times, as many older workers have either lost their jobs because of layoffs or
retirement and have returned to the workforce in part-time positions. Older workers
typically are the first to be downsized during company cut-backs. From 1967 to
1986, the percentage of the population 55 and older that worked dropped from almost
half to one-third (Alexander and Kaye 1997: 6). This decline has occurred across the
spectrum, but it has been especially large for the poorly educated. Displaced older
workers who have limited skills may have a harder time finding work if widespread
layoffs occur in their field (Hutchens 1993: 102). They are unable to use the skills
honed over the years because of a lack of need on the part of other employers.
Several studies have found that middle-aged and older workers have more
difficulty reentering the workforce. They are not as likely to find jobs that use their
full range of skills (Hutchens 1993: 81). Leana and Feldman found that many of the
older workers in their sample who were laid off felt that age was a primary factor
behind their termination (Leana and Feldman 1992: 30). They found that many of the
companies later hired younger individuals to take positions previously held by these
older workers.
Many employees prefer to hire younger workers for positions because of the
27


increased number of years that a younger worker can devote to the job (Hutchens
1993: 83). In addition, training costs often make younger workers more desirable.
Because of the rising cost of training new employees in many professions, employers
often want to recover their costs through long-time investment on the part of the new
employee. This also allows employers to establish firm relationships with long-term
employees. Constant turnover has little place in many workplaces. Because of the
perceived transitory status of an older worker, they are not seen as desirable new
hires.
As a result, many older workers are currently working in part-time low-wage
positions. Part-time work does not require the training investment that long-term full-
time work typically has, which makes employment opportunities better for older
workers (Hutchens 1993: 84). Turnover is constant for many employers and duration
of employment is not a factor. An example might be a fast-food restaurant.
Obtaining a responsible worker is of the essence, and age is not normally a factor.
Part-time jobs have advantages and disadvantages for older workers. They
free up more time to use for personal leisure and help the worker maintain a schedule
for the day. However, they frequently represent a step down in status and pay from
the career positions that many older workers held in the past (Alexander and Kaye
1997: 74). In Alexander and Kayes study with elderly workers, they found that the
average hourly wage for their sample dropped from between $6.00 and $7.00 an hour
to $3.97 for unemployed elders and $4.14 for part-time workers. What makes these
numbers stand out is that the initial average was from jobs worked in the late 1970s;
28


the second average is from 1987-88. However, it certainly seems possible that the
drop in the average wage earned may signal a wanted change in job status, as an older
worker may want to reduce the amount of job-related stress in his/her life (Hutchens
1993: 82).
Whether the reduction in stress and status was warranted by the older worker
or not, the reduction in salary is of utmost concern for most individuals. Research has
found that many retirees receive less than half of their pre-retirement income (Levine
1988: 30). This can have drastic effects on the elderly, as they are most likely to
suffer from a long debilitating illness that can wipe out savings accrued over the
years. Even with federal assistance, many elderly find themselves below the poverty
level. Lower part-time wages certainly do not help many of these individuals.
Homelessness
The homeless have the hardest obstacle to overcome in obtaining meaningful
work. They frequently have to cope with one or more of the previous barriers to
work. Add that to the environmental deficiencies that a homeless individual faces
each day and it is clear that the problems they endure are much greater than for
individuals who have a secure place of residence.
The unavailability of work is one of the primary challenges that a homeless
individual faces. Conventional wisdom holds that the homeless are not employed
because they are lazy (Snow and Anderson 1993: 111). Holders of this belief state
that there are large numbers of unskilled jobs available that the homeless refuse to
29


take, thereby suggesting that people are unemployed because they lack discipline. In
reality, the situation is quite different. Using data gathered by the Texas Employment
Commission, Snow and Anderson found that the majority of homeless in that
population are unskilled and have held blue-collar jobs during their lifetimes (Snow
and Anderson 1993: 113). They possess few occupational skills that can be used to
secure a higher-paying and higher-status position. In addition, a lack of these skills
makes finding permanent work more difficult because the unskilled homeless worker
has to compete with members of the general population who possess more skills.
Want ads are plentiful in metro-area newspapers, thereby giving the image
that jobs are plentiful and readily available for anyone who wishes to work.
However, as one scans the listings more closely, it becomes obvious that the
overwhelming majority of available positions are ones for which an unskilled worker,
especially a homeless worker, is not qualified. When one adds the usual necessity of
references, a clean appearance, a stable address and phone number, tools, a drivers
license, and/or transportation, the barriers to employment become even greater (Snow
and Anderson 1993: 117). Homeless individuals have trouble obtaining all of these
requirements for permanent work. Homeless people typically are unable to store
spare clothes, because of a lack of money or possibility of theft. In addition, the
space needed for a shower and money for toiletries are rarely available for the
homeless. Most homeless individuals do not have a stable work history, which puts
them in the high-risk Category in the eyes of potential employers. Transportation is
another factor, especially when an individual does find work. Frequently, unskilled
30


work is found in construction, which normally takes place in suburban areas, far away
from the metropolitan centers where most homeless live (Snow and Anderson 1993:
121). Often public transportation is of little help, because of the lack of adequate
routes to outlying areas. Also, most homeless rely upon the Salvation Army and
other charities for meals and places to sleep. These programs have strict schedules
for meals and cutoff times for beds. A worker who misses these deadlines because of
work scheduling is simply out of luck and must find other ways to be fed or given a
bed.
Homeless workers limited skills and education deficiencies usually relegate
them to, at best, temporary work at very low wages (Hardin 1996: 46). Day labor,
such as newspaper hawking, is often the best option for most homeless individuals.
As the term applies, it involves jobs that are secured on a day-to-day basis (Snow and
Anderson 1993: 123). Typically, day labor jobs involve some form of physical labor,
even though there are jobs that require only light work. Virtually every day labor job
is unskilled in nature. They often involve irregular schedules and minimal pay, about
$35 a day net (Brett, pers. comm.). Also, the potential day laborer must deal with the
occasional case of exploitation on the part of the employer. Benefits are not offered.
As well, some employers are very willing to evade any sense of responsibility if a
laborer is injured while working.
Day labor is not easy to acquire. Many cities have spots where potential day
laborers wait for employers to drive by in their automobiles and announce available
jobs. In Denver, such a spot exists in the downtown area across from one of the soup
31


kitchens. Laborers are forced to compete with one another in proving their ability to
do the work. This competition makes it difficult for many homeless individuals to
maintain steady work, and that makes life more difficult when day labor is frequently
the only option available to most homeless individuals.
Public policy problems
Not all problems for hawkers are strictly individual ones. The U.S. economy
has switched from being industrial to a computer-driven technology and service-
oriented one. In the past, individuals who held a small amount of employable skills
could find relevant and sustainable work in the factories. Within the past few
decades, many of these jobs have disappeared as work has either been automated or
transferred out of the country to areas where labor cost are much less.
Adding to this problem is the public perception that finding employment
solutions is the full responsibility of the displaced individual. As Ronald Reagan
stated, the people have the genius and courage to solve their own problems (Reagan
1968: 2; cited in Levitan and Johnson 1984: 16). Many conservatives hold steadfast
to the belief in pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. This perception was especially
prevalent during the Reagan and Bush presidencies, as government spending on
welfare and other social service programs was cut significantly.
Significant progress has been made during the Clinton presidency, helped by
low levels of inflation and unemployment throughout the mid 1990s (Meyer 1999:
113-121). Welfare reform bills such as the Personal Responsibility and Work
32


Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 and the Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families (TANF) program have put an emphasis on eliminating the need for welfare
by providing job opportunities for poor and unemployed individuals. In addition,
these programs have allowed the unemployed to retain some of their cash assistance
while making the transition to the workforce. To receive this continued assistance,
recipients must participate in work-preparedness programs while making the
transition from unemployed to employed. These governmental steps have been
extremely beneficial for many people who were previously unemployed. Between
1994 and 1998, the number of people needing public assistance declined 37 percent.
However, as shown by this research, this progress is not reaching everyone.
The informal economy
So where does this leave many individuals who are unable to find relevant
life-sustaining work? The formal job market is unreachable to many individuals in
our society, whether they are disabled, homeless, or recent immigrants. As a result,
many people are forced to rely upon the informal job market or underground
economy. In addition, public assistance payments are typically not enough for an
individual or family to meet its living needs, thereby forcing many individuals to use
informal methods to obtain extra money without incurring taxes or the loss of welfare
benefits due to reporting additional income (Sharff 1987: 19).
The informal economy improvises to complement the formal economy as the
latter changes through time (Leonard 1998: 24). Recently, the informal economy has
33


expanded as competitiveness in the formal economy has forced companies to reduce
costs to remain competitive. The informal economy was first categorized as self-
employment that interacted with the formal economy (Portes 1996: 148). It has been
referred to as an urban way of doing things characterized by low entry barriers with
regards to skill, employment history, and capital, unregulated and competitive
markets, and low levels of productivity and earning potential.
All of these characteristics are clearly evident in newspaper hawking. No
skills or employment record are needed to begin hawking, competition between
newspapers fuels the need for street comer sales, and a hawker cannot expect to earn
more than a few dollars a day selling papers. Competition between the two
newspapers in Denver is a key element in the proliferation of this form of informal
labor. It directly mirrors the use of the informal economy by other firms. As
businesses attempt to become more competitive in the emerging global market, less-
essential services are pooled out to independent contractors who then hire the lower-
skilled individuals, which limits their economic opportunities to ones that are
characterized by vulnerable, irregular, and often exploitative work (Leonard 1998:
41-42, 68). Many large businesses sub-contract the production and marketing aspects
of their businesses to small firms to reduce overhead costs (Portes 1996: 151). These
smaller subcontracting firms will frequently hire workers off-the-books to reduce the
liability of high labor costs. Hawkers are treated as independent sub-contractors hired
to sell the newspaper on a day-to-day basis. In doing so, the paper pays them a set fee
of $10. If this fee is calculated to the number of hours worked each day by a hawker,
34


typically three to five hours, it falls below the minimum wage. In some cases, it is
less than half the lowest standard required by law.
Even with the irregularity of the work and the low financial reward, informal
work has been offered as a moral boost for unemployed individuals. Wenig argues
that employment is regarded in high esteem by society, with success being defined as
holding a job in the formal economy (Wenig 1990; cited in Leonard 1998: 68).
Individuals who hold positions in the formal economy are seen as contributing to the
good of the whole, whereas the unemployed are only seen as a drain upon the society.
The unemployed are seen as useless and are partially at fault for their condition.
Through the added informal income, the unemployed can reduce their need for
society to assist them. However, while working in the informal economy will most
likely give some boost to the previously unemployed, the irregularity of employment
and financial rewards makes it unlikely that informal work will be a successful way
for the unemployed to make a decent living.
Thoughts on the Literature
Work is a central part of ones identity. It provides stability, purpose,
methods of social interaction and inclusion, and a financial return for ones
investment of energy. Losing ones work can have disastrous effects. As studies
have shown, individuals often face mental and physical problems after losing work.
The resulting emotional and financial instability can create difficulty for an individual
who attempts to reenter the workforce.
35


Each of the four factors mentioned previously presents a significant obstacle
to finding meaningful and financially rewarding work. However, each factor does not
have equal causal power in creating difficulty. Having a lack of skills is most likely
the primary underlying factor behind the problems faced by many individuals who
attempt to find work. As our economy continues its shift towards maintaining higher
skilled work in the United States and lower skilled work in developing countries, the
unskilled will face even fewer sustainable options in the future. When one has a
greater array of skills and a higher level of education at his/her disposal, his/her
working possibilities increase significantly. When one possesses these skills,
disability and age will have a less negative effect upon ones desirability to
employers. This is quite evident in the studies done with the disabled and with older
workers. Skilled individuals usually found jobs that were in their desired field;
unskilled individuals were often shut out of the workforce or forced to work in lower
status or part-time jobs.
Yet, homelessness may present an individual with the greatest overall
difficulty. First, most homeless people have a lack of marketable skills. Second,
they may often live with a disability or may be considered too old to be successful at
many jobs. Third, they often have to deal with drug and/or alcohol dependence.
Lastly, they have to negotiate these possible obstacles while constantly dealing with
the environmental difficulties that accompany living on the street. They are easily
excluded from permanent positions because of their appearance, their lack of relevant
working connections, and not having a fixed place of residence. As a result, working
36


success is often an unattainable goal.
Where does this leave individuals who have to live with one or more of these
negative factors? It often leads them to part-time unskilled work or to complete
unemployment. Low skill day-to-day jobs such as newspaper hawking or temporary
construction or maintenance work are often the only avenues available to people who
deal with social and physical handicaps. While these opportunities enable the
unemployed to earn some money on a daily basis, the financial rewards rarely sustain
an individual for more than one day. In addition, they are unable to help an
individual maintain his health or other needs if an emergency should occur.
Several investigators have mentioned the need for training in relevant skills
for the unskilled, the disabled, the elderly, and the homeless. This is a necessity if we
expect to lower the overwhelming numbers of unemployed or underemployed
individuals in this country. Public policy is turning an ear to these types of programs
as the government attempts to reduce the amount of people on the welfare rolls.
Continued support of these skill-enhancing programs needs to happen for the
unemployed to enhance their lot in life.
This study shows that hawking is a small step in the right direction, as it gives
many individuals in Denver a viable option for earning money when full-time options
are unavailable. Secondly, it gives a hawker a standard working routine each day that
will help them adjust back to the formal workplace. Third, a hawker will receive
guaranteed earnings at the end of the day. Through the eyes of the hawkers, one can
clearly see the importance of hawking for individuals who are struggling to survive in
37


rapidly changing economy.


CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY
To fulfill the goals of this research, I interviewed 48 hawkers either while they
were selling newspapers or waiting to be driven to their corners by the newspaper
trucks. Each of the hawkers names has been changed to maintain confidentiality.
Coming into the research, I believed that most of the hawkers I would meet would be
homeless men who were simply using the money for alcohol. I found a much
different situation. While there is a significant number of homeless individuals
selling papers, the majority of the people I interviewed had either a house, apartment,
motel, or another place to sleep each night. Twenty-seven of the 48 individuals I
interviewed fell under this category, while only 15 people stated that they were
homeless. A few of the former group had been homeless before they began hawking,
and through the hawking program, they had been able to stabilize their lives and
obtain housing.
An overwhelming majority of the hawkers are male, comprising 41 of the 48
people I interviewed. At the same time, forty of the hawkers were Caucasian, four
African-American, and four Hispanic. Ten of the hawkers identified themselves as
having a disability. I was able to obtain the educational background of 27 of the
hawkers, and most members of this group had a high school degree. Three hawkers
reported not finishing high school, and 10 had either a high school degree or had
completed a General Equivalency Degree. Nine hawkers had completed high school
and had some college experience, four had college degrees, and one had an advanced
39


degree.
To gamer this information from the hawkers, I used participant observation.
Participant observation is seen as the cornerstone of cultural anthropology (Bernard
1995: 136). Also referred to as fieldwork, it can be described as an anthropologists
attempt to learn and reach understanding through asking, doing, watching, testing,
and experiencing for herself the same activities, rituals, rules and meanings as the
subjects. Our subjects become the experts, the instructors, and we become the
students (EstrofF 1981: 20; see also Koester 1995: 84).
Participant observation takes the researcher further into the lives of his/her
informants. Through its emphasis on participation and observation, this method
allows the researcher to view naturalistically the informants routine and devise
questions that are relevant to the action occurring. Instead of entering the scene with
preconceived questions that may or may not have relevance to the situation, the
researcher enters with as clear a mental slate as humanly possible that can be filled as
the minutes and hours go by. I entered this study with few preconceived conclusions
about the hawkers, and the ones that I had often proved to be false.
Ethnographic investigations are often short-term studies dealing with a
specific question (Koester 1995: 84). As I began the study, I asked questions dealing
with the factors leading to someone taking up hawking, as well as ones dealing with
the day-to-day routine of a hawker. As I became more immersed in the lives of the
hawkers, I was able to pinpoint more specific questions that could answer the general
questions I had about why people turn to marginalized forms of work to earn a living.
40


While ethnographic studies involve a multitude of data collection methods,
this particular study primarily used semi-structured and unstructured qualitative
interviews and observation. I chose to use unstructured interviews because of the
nature of the meetings. Unstructured interviews can be defined as ones that are based
on a clear plan of conversational direction but only have a minimum of control over a
respondents answers (Bernard 1995: 209). With the exception of the five interviews
that were done on the first day, I approached each hawker without being introduced to
him/her beforehand. For the most part, this decision regarding interviewing
techniques was done based on personal comfort, as I felt more comfortable asking
questions while having a conversation with a hawker instead of giving them a
structured set of questions. In my experience as a quantitative interviewer, I have felt
strained by the format of questioning and have noticed the discomfort visually
displayed by respondents. People feel more comfortable in a give-and-take situation,
as opposed to a strict question-answer format. I also felt that hawkers would be more
receptive to interviews that did not involve strict questionnaires. These interviews
were their chance to tell their story in a way that they saw fit, only to be guided along
by me when necessary. Most hawkers were able to take a question and run with it,
thereby answering many of my questions without a single prompt. In addition, after I
approached many hawkers and asked them if they would be willing to be interviewed,
several told me that they could only be interviewed if it was a quick interview that did
not interrupt their selling routine.
Most hawkers are constantly busy during their time on the corner, and
41


answering a quantitative survey can disrupt a hawkers routine. Filling out a survey
was out of the question. Instead, I questioned them while we had a conversation,
often walking with a hawker while s/he tried to sell papers. In addition, many hawker
spots are located on small, cramped medians in between the two lanes of traffic. To
minimize my presence on this limited space, I was forced to use a small notebook to
take notes during interviews.
I began the study by contacting the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News to
gain permission to interview hawkers. Unfortunately, the Rocky Mountain News
never returned my phone calls, and I did not begin interviewing their hawkers until
the intensive interviewing period at the end of my fieldwork. The Denver Post
immediately gave me the name and number of a crucial contact that is in charge of
the hawking program for the paper. He gave me the time and place where the Post
picks up its hawkers downtown, and I agreed to meet him there on the following
Sunday morning.
Early that Sunday morning at approximately 5:45 a.m., I met the hawking
coordinator and the hawkers at a parking lot next to the McDonalds restaurant on the
comer of Colfax and Pennsylvania in the heart of the city. Darkness surrounded the
city as I made my drive over, and there were only a few other people out on the
streets on this cold morning. As I found the parking lot, I saw three moving trucks
and 30 to 40 people milling around. Some people were talking to one another, but
most stayed still and quiet, merely trying to stay warm in the cold. Several
individuals were lying in the back of these moving trucks, using a bundle of papers as
42


a pillow to sleep with while waiting for the trucks to depart. I got out of my car and
stood near one of the trucks, highly conspicuous in my clothing, as I was wearing a
clean North Face jacket, an obvious contrast to the worn clothing that an
overwhelming majority of the hawkers were wearing.
While we waited for the hawking coordinator to arrive, I made small talk with
one of the men standing next to me who turned out to be a first-time hawker. He and
I were in a similar situation: newcomers to hawking who wondered about how it
worked and how financially rewarding it was. However, he and I had a marked
contrast: he was going to learn about hawking through first-hand work; I would learn
about it by remaining an outsider peering into the life and work of the people I
studied.
The coordinator soon arrived, and people began moving to the trucks to be
taken to their locations. I quickly introduced myself to him, and he began telling me
about the hawking program as he got everything ready for the day. In the middle of
one of his sentences, he suddenly noticed a disheveled looking man standing off to
the side and began yelling at him in an intense fashion. Apparently, the man had
taken a spot the day before and then left it soon after to go and get some liquor. After
doing so, he did not return to his spot until soon before the truck came to pick him up
in the afternoon. The coordinator had apparently driven by the spot a few times
during the day and had not seen the man. A liquor store was nearby, which led the
coordinator to his conclusion about the hawkers actions. The hawker denied his
accusations, but the coordinators forcefulness subdued his objections. He
43


immediately told the hawker in no uncertain terms to leave the premises at once and
not to ever try to hawk for the Post again. I was a bit taken aback at first by his
harshness to the man, but after realizing that the coordinator is in the marketing
business, I understood his tone. He later explained that having inebriated hawkers on
street comers can give a bad image to the program, thereby hurting sales.
After taking care of the problem, he then began rounding everyone up and
introduced me in a general fashion to the hawkers present. Two boxes of doughnuts
gave me the warm reception that I was hoping for, and the coordinator also informed
them that I would not be paying them for their interviews. He also asked if anyone
did not want to be interviewed, and noted the two individuals who were not interested
in talking with me. With this introduction taken care of, he got everyone into the
trucks, closed the door of his truck, and got ready to leave. After he left, I waited
around a bit and talked with a few of the hawkers who were left waiting for another
truck to come and pick them up. One of the ones waiting was heavily inebriated, and
after I asked him why he was hawking, he gave me the response that every
anthropologist fears upon beginning research on a topic: Whaddya think I do it for?
Thats a stupid question!
As he fell down after haranguing me, I replied that I didnt know and was
simply trying to find out reasons why people are hawking. After getting back up
from his drunken fall, he answered that he was hawking to obtain money for alcohol.
Soon afterwards, he climbed up into the back of another truck and went off to sell
papers. Bewildered, I walked away and began interviewing hawkers at their spots.
44


For these interviews, I approached each hawker, identified myself and my
intentions and then asked them if they wished to be interviewed. I gave them my
name and told them that I was a student at the University of Colorado at Denver
doing a study on newspaper hawking. I told them that I was trying to find out the
reasons why people turn to hawking to make money. This process worked efficiently
and effectively. I wanted to make sure that each hawker understood that I was not an
employee of the newspapers, which may have kept him/her from giving me a
complete picture of hawking. In addition, I wanted to assure the hawkers that then-
participation was voluntary and either consenting or refusing to participate in the
study would not cause them any harm. Most hawkers were extremely polite and
candid during the interviews. After I introduced myself, they then put me at ease
with their easygoing demeanor. I only had four people who refused to be
interviewed, a number much lower than I expected. Three of the four refused by
stating that they were working and did not have time for me to ask them questions.
The other did not want to be interviewed without signing a waiver of confidentiality,
which I did not have, as I used verbal consent to obtain these interviews.
After acquiring an approval to begin the interview, I usually began by asking
how long the person had been hawking and the length of time they had been at that
particular spot. I then asked them how hawking worked out for them. Typically, they
would respond with a general answer that often included the show-up fees that they
were paid each day for hawking. Afterwards, I would question them about how they
found out about hawking and what work they had done before hawking. If they
45


informed me that they were currently working, I would have them elaborate more on
their current situation and how hawking helped them financially. I also inquired
about their housing status if they did not refer to their living situation during the
previous questioning.
I spent a great deal of time asking them about how they sold newspapers and
what methods seemed to be beneficial in boosting sales and earning tips. Most of the
hawkers showed me the tips they had learned that help them sell papers. I also
watched many of them sell for a few minutes while interviewing them. There were
several times during interviews where the hawkers had their backs to traffic while
talking to me. When this happened, I tried to keep my eye on traffic to see if any
potential buyers might pass by. One of my greatest fears during the interviews was
that I would keep the hawkers from selling papers during our conversations. In many
cases, I feel that I may have, as many hawkers concentrated on talking with me
instead of keeping their eyes on traffic. Fortunately, I was able to point out a few
customers to hawkers while I interviewed them. At other times, I simply walked with
them and took notes while they walked up and down the medians, even repeatedly
going into oncoming traffic with one hawker who was a bit more daring than the
others.
The interviews took from five minutes to an hour and a half, with most
interviews lasting from between 15 to 30 minutes. When possible, I asked the
hawkers about their length of time in Denver and about their place of upbringing. I
used this first to try to find out their connections to the area, to gauge their ties to the
46


population and to the workforce. Second, I used this questioning to try to move the
conversation over to their educational backgrounds. Unfortunately, due to time
constraints on many of the interviews or simply because the conversation never
reached this topic, I only was able to gamer information on the educational
background on 27 of the 48 hawkers I interviewed.
The aforementioned lack of data regarding educational levels highlights one
the shortcomings of using open-ended questioning to elicit information in one-time
interviews. My data on education levels is not as complete as I would like it to be.
Using a more structured form of questioning would have eliminated these problems,
as I would have followed a line of questioning that would have given me the answers
I needed. In addition, because of the transient nature of the hawking spots, where
individuals typically stay at one spot for a day to a month, follow-up interviews were
difficult at best. I interviewed four different hawkers at one spot at the intersection of
Alameda and Colorado within the span of a month. Each of the hawkers informed me
that they would try to stay at that spot for a lengthy time, but I would often drive by
that location on other days and see a new person selling each time. With this problem
in mind, I was forced to use the information that I could collect from these loose
interviews.
However, I feel that overall my technique was a beneficial one, as it allowed
me to gain a quick, easy rapport with each hawker. I tried to make each hawker
comfortable with my presence and using a naturally flowing conversation appeared to
work in my favor. In addition, it allowed them the ability to ask me questions about
47


my research and to take their time to fully inform me about their opinions regarding
hawking and other topics. I came into the research wanting to record the experiences
of hawkers in Denver, and using unstructured interviews successfully gave me what I
was looking for. At first, I was able to learn all of the aspects of being a hawker, as
well as the life histories of each hawker. Later in the research, I was able to tailor
each interview to fit the situation. For example, if I needed to talk with a hawker
about how a lack of skills affected his/her life, I could do so. Conversely, I was able
to talk with another about how his business skills helped him as a hawker. I also
wanted to determine how hawkers valued their work, and how they felt they were
valued by the community at large. The long dialogues allowed me to do so
successfully. In addition, I was able to use the natural conversation to report some of
my findings to later interviewees to get their feedback on what I was seeing. During
the latter parts of the research, a primary goal was to back up the emerging
conclusions. I talked with several hawkers about the presence of alcoholics on
medians, and whether or not they were out on the streets in large numbers. In
addition, I was able to back up my initial findings on how the drop in home delivery
prices have killed the sales of hawkers in recent times, as well as concluding that
there was little competition between hawkers selling different papers on the same
comer. I also was able to pinpoint the selling techniques that work the best by giving
examples to the later hawkers to gamer their opinions. Overall, the method gave me
the ability to structure the interview around the responses I received from each
hawker. Also, it was effective in giving me an evocative picture of the life and
48


working conditions of each hawker.


CHAPTER 4
FINDINGS
Factors Behind Hawking
Hawkers have been an increasing presence at comers and intersections since
1992. The increase occurred after the Rocky Mountain News slashed its Sunday price
to 25 cents and hired hundreds of hawkers to sell the papers in public (Keating 1995:
G-01). The two papers have hawkers sell their papers because of the competition that
exists between the two companies. The Circulation Department manager in charge of
hawker sales for the Denver Post told me that competition for circulation is the only
reason why both of the papers use hawkers. Increased circulation means more
advertising money for a newspaper. The papers make no direct money through
hawker sales, because the hawkers get to keep all money earned each day. Thus, the
advertising money helps eliminate the financial losses that the newspapers incur
through funding the hawking programs. However, it would still appear that there is
little reason for the hawking program, as there are boxes located throughout the
metro-Denver area where customers can buy papers without the guilty feeling of
needing to pay extra through tips.
Many of the hawkers I spoke with could not afford for the papers to
discontinue using the program. Twenty-six of the 48 hawkers I interviewed use
hawking as their only source of employment. Ten of those hawkers are homeless.
Three of the others are using hawking to complement their retirement pensions. Four
50


hawkers have full-time jobs, consisting of academic research, hotel management,
printing, and construction. Most of the part-time jobs are either construction or other
relatively low-skilled jobs. The temporary jobs are usually construction or other
labor-oriented work.
Fifteen of the hawkers I talked with were homeless. Most of the homeless
individuals I spoke to had been homeless for a few years. For many of the homeless,
this was their sole source of income, giving them enough for food and a few toiletries.
Others used hawking to complement their earnings from work obtained through
Ready Man and other temporary agencies in Denver. Many of the homeless hawkers
were hawking simply because they could not find other work.
Other hawkers were selling papers because they were unable to work any
other job. Most of this latter group were physically disabled. I interviewed 10
individuals who were disabled, and those disabilities ranged from severe leg injuries
to breathing disorders and brain injuries. These injuries occurred either in a
workplace accident, a fight, public accidents, or were a bodily condition that affected
them in a significant way. The majority of these disabled were unable to work any
other job because of the physical strain that most jobs put upon the body. Others
were able to work, but only for short periods of time before needing rest. This clearly
excludes them from most jobs, and this exclusion is heightened when you combine
their disability with a lack of employable skills. Many of the disabled individuals
held physically demanding jobs before being injured. These options are no longer
available to them.
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One hawker, Mickey, explained it this way: I injured my knee in a fight and
was crippled. [Hawking newspapers] is the only work that someone who is crippled
can do. Id try to get other jobs, but when they would see my knee and how I walk,
theyd tell me they couldnt hire me. I used to do heavy labor, and now I cant go up
stairs or lift anymore.
Phil is another hawker who suffers from the same problem. He sells
newspapers because of major injuries sustained in two separate accidents. First, he
broke several bones in his back when a ladder fell on him at a warehouse. He was
then able to find a job processing titles, but the business went under. Then he was hit
by a car, which broke his leg in several places. The bones never healed correctly.
Another hawker, Sarah, is unable to find permanent work because she broke
her foot in an accident. I jumped off a loading dock and didnt navigate the height.
I snapped my foot in half in five places. It is one of the hardest fractures to heal, and
I didnt have any insurance. She applied for disability but was denied with the
response that her injury was not severe enough. However, hawking on the weekends
is even hard for her, as the lengthy time out on the comer wears out her foot.
A fourth hawker, Billy, hawks because of several back injuries. He said, I
worked 17 years in the trucking industry. Because of back operations, I cant do
anything anymore. I drove a truck for a living. After the third back operation, they
said, No more. I had disc injuries that were all work-related. Now, I cant lift
anything over 20 lb. So, theres not a lot I can do. I can get disability, but I havent
filed. Now, Im just doing what I can do to survive. Hawking is good for me. It
52


wasnt designed for everybody, but it was for me because of my disabilities.
Hawking gives each of these disabled individuals a chance to earn money
without laborious work. There is very little lifting involved, and there are several
spots that do not require one to walk up and down a median. S/he may simply stand
or sit in one location and have customers come up to him/her to buy a paper. One
concentration of these disabled-friendly spots is in the downtown area. I spoke with
seven hawkers in the downtown area who suffered from a physical disability. Each
of them preferred to work downtown because one does not have to move very much
to sell papers. All they have to do is stand or sit and display the newspapers. They
can even lean against buildings for support if they get tired.
Other spots, such as the one that Phil had, are located in the front of grocery
stores. Phil sold to the side of the stores entrance where a picnic table was located.
Thus, he was able to sit at the table throughout the day, only getting up to take papers
to customers who drove by. This gave his leg ample time to rest throughout the day.
Unfortunately, most of these spots that are good for disabled individuals are not
lucrative spots. The downtown spots do not have many customers, as most
downtown workers either have their paper delivered to their homes or to the office.
Those individuals who do buy do not frequently tip. Most of the downtown hawkers
average fewer than 10 sales a day, and few of these sales have tips added on. These
hawkers are forced to rely upon the business travelers staying in downtown hotels
such as the Adams Mark. Hawkers stationed closer to the Adams Mark tend to do
better in tips, thanks to the business travelers who are frequently using expense
53


accounts while in town and are willing to forgo their change more often than local
businesspeople.
Others hawk papers because they are unable to find work due to a lack of
employable skills. A large majority of the hawkers were either currently or
previously working in unskilled or low-skilled jobs. Many of the unemployed
hawkers had either left or had been terminated from labor-oriented work. Examples
of these forms of work include janitor, construction, landscaping, housewife, and
dishwasher. Many hawkers had gone from one job to another without picking up any
marketable skills. As the American economy turns from an industrial to a service and
computer-oriented one, many individuals such as these hawkers have been left
behind. Many hawkers are unable to learn skills that could help them return to the
workforce, either because of personal unwillingness to retrain themselves or because
of financial difficulties. Two women I talked to had been housewives all of their
lives and needed to start earning money. With no skills, they turned to hawking.
One, Kristin, was on welfare for a few years, but left the welfare rolls after starting
hawking. Ive applied around and they arent taking me. Ive applied at the 7-11
(convenience store), drug stores, and liquor stores. I need more experience. She has
even lost her identification card. She hopes to return to school to learn some skills,
but she has no money and no real plan of action.
Billy told me, Im 50 years old, and I dont have any computer knowledge.
Ive been offered computer classes, but I dont take them. I cant sit all the time.
One unemployed hawker, Domingo, has been unemployed for half a year.
54


Before hawking, he worked as a laborer, dishwasher, and a utilities worker
throughout Denver and the Front Range. He said, I did the traditional job hunting,
and I came across employers who are like, Well call you. There are numerous
roadblocks. If were having such a good economic deal, why arent some of these
employers calling?
Another hawker, Wayne, has extreme difficulties finding work because of his
lack of education. He previously worked at the Tri-County Health Department. I
got laid off because I didnt have enough education to stay at Tri-County. I only went
through grade school. It prevents me from getting a job. Computers? I dont know
about that.
Other hawkers are doing this work simply because their automobiles broke
down, and they do not have any other means of efficient transportation. Two hawkers
I talked to began hawking after their automobiles broke down. They were both
dependent upon those automobiles for their livelihoods. One was a pizza delivery
driver, the other an ironworker who had to travel to Parker each day for work. Many
others turn to hawking because they are unable to get around town to the various
work sites, especially those working in the construction business. Domingo
complained that he could not do any construction work because he was unable to
reach any of the construction sites in the suburban areas of Denver. The bus system
was not efficient enough to get him to work on time, and he had no automobile. By
the time he reached many of the sites, he was too late to join the crew working that
day. Hawking works for him because he is able to quickly take the bus from his
55


home to downtown to sell. On the weekends, the papers take him to and from the
spot where he sells.
A final factor leading to people hawking is age. Three hawkers were doing
the work to augment their monthly retirement earnings. Jerry came to Denver from
Florida after taking early retirement from Martin Marietta. After sitting around for
six months, he found out about hawking and gave it a try. It works perfectly for him,
as he is able to only work for three to four hours a day and then relaxes at home
during the remainder of the day. It also keeps him from spending his retirement
earnings too quickly.
Another couple, Donna and Keith, also use hawking to complement their
retirement earnings. She also received an early retirement offer after working as an
inspector for a ceramics company here in Denver. Keith receives Social Security
each month. These two payments are not enough to make their ends meet, so they
have been hawking for the past 14 years. This helps them get through, and it is
much preferable to finding temporary work each day.
A third hawker, Kelly, worked as a waitress throughout her life. Now in her
sixties, she is no longer able to withstand the long, strenuous hours that the job
entails. Its really hard work. At least six days a week, youre on your feet
constantly. I cant take that kind of strain at my age. Hawking is not that easy for
her, as she is at a busy intersection where she has to walk up and down the median
throughout the shift, but the shorter hours work better for her. And, as she stated, It
keeps food on the table.
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As witnessed by the stories of these hawkers, people turn to hawking for a
variety of reasons, both structural and individual. This multitude of factors leading to
hawking highlights the interplay of structural and individual forces in determining the
life and working options of an individual. Many of these hawkers are struggling to
survive because they live in a technologically based society that does not reward
manual skills. Instead, our society rewards those individuals who have the skills
needed to adapt to a rapidly changing technological world. Most of these hawkers do
not have these skills, thus relegating them to the bottom rung of the employment
ladder. In addition, our society favors individuals who have attained a high level of
education. Many of these hawkers either have completed high school or dropped out
before doing so. Having this low amount of education forces many people into a life
of low-skilled jobs with little chance for advancement. However, many of these
hawkers would like to enroll in a job-skills program to improve their employability,
but the opportunities have not been there for them. As shown by Donna, Keith, and
Kelly, age plays a significant part in leading people to hawking. They each felt that
they were unemployable because of their age and the declining condition of their
bodies.
However, more individual factors also play a part in turning these individuals
into hawkers. For many hawkers, a simple case of bad luck has led them to their
current situation. Several of these hawkers were injured in a single accident from
which they were never able to properly recover. If they had not been in the wrong
place at the wrong time, they might presently be a contributing part of the formal
57


economy. Others have chosen hawking simply out of their own volition. Hawking
provides them with a low-stress job that helps them make ends meet. When the three
to four hours of selling papers are over each morning, they are done working for the
day and can spend the remainder of the day doing as they please.
For many of the hawkers, hawking is merely a means to survive while trying
to get ones life back in order and plan a new employment direction. I talked with
one hawker, Todd, who planned to return to school to learn the baking trade. He was
waiting on a Pell Grant to come through before he could return to school. Hawking
had helped him get stabilized before making this big step. Another hawker, J.B., was
hawking to make extra money while he waited for the Summer Olympics in Australia
to come along. Once this event came close, he planned on going to Australia to
create and sell Olympics merchandise.
Several other hawkers were undecided about their futures, but were simply
using hawking to survive, earning whatever they could in the meantime. What is
important about this last group is that many of these undecided hawkers felt that they
were the only ones who could improve their condition, not any governmental or
private organizations. They firmly believed in the American ideal of bringing oneself
up by the bootstrap. One homeless hawker, Marvin, was adamant about his need to
get his life back in order. He had been homeless for three years after having a stable
maintenance job, and had been hawking for a year-and-a-half. He told me, Im
going to get it back together. Its not hard to find a job. You have to get back on
your feet. You have to do it by yourself. Abide by the rules.... Its up to me. The
58


world dont owe me shit. I took that fall because I wanted to.... Once you get that
feeling where you dont care, you lose everything. Its up to me. Im not going to die
in this situation. You have to pick yourself up. Have that drive instead of turning to
the bottle.
Hawking gives him a temporary method of earning money while he figures
things out. It pays $10 a day. You dont have to rob anybody. You can buy a
smoke; you have a little money. You can stay out of trouble. He planned on leaving
town soon after the day of our interview to look for work and begin his life again in
the southern United States.
Other hawkers had no intentions of ever quitting hawking. It gives them
enough money to survive on each day. They are able to use that money for some of
their personal needs and complement their earnings with the free meals given by
churches and other social organizations and the sleeping facilities provided by the
local shelters. Most of the individuals who planned to continue hawking for a long
period of time were single homeless men who did not have any family for which to
provide. Because they only had to take care of themselves, hawking enabled hem to
satisfy their daily needs. A few others had another concern to take care of: finding
the next drink of alcohol.
Alcoholism and Hawking
Alcoholism is a significant problem for hawkers, both for those who are
addicted and those who are not. Only three individuals identified themselves as
59


frequent drinkers. In what was the most surprising finding of the research, I only
interviewed one hawker who had consumed alcohol that day and was visibly
inebriated. I came into the research thinking that a majority of the hawkers would be
using the money to maintain their habits. As I continued the research, most hawkers
expressed a concern about drunks out on the streets selling papers. However, I only
had contact with the one drunk the morning that I began doing interviews. The other
two individuals drank on their own time, not while on the job. Several others
identified themselves as former drinkers, and this drinking had contributed to their
current state. However, a majority of the hawkers were visibly concerned about
drunken hawkers out on the comers. Many hawkers feel that a significant portion of
the hawkers out there selling papers were drinking on the job. The drinkers are out
there, and their behavior hurts both themselves and the other hawkers out selling
papers. In the summer of 1998, with the temperature reaching 96 degrees, one
hawker drank so much on the job that he passed out and died from pneumonia and
alcohol poisoning at his spot. Several hawkers mentioned that the alcoholics are a
nuisance to the others because they give the group a bad image. They feel that these
drunks are mining the hard work that they were putting in while hawking. Hawking
is a public relations job, and one visibly inebriated hawker can taint the legitimate
image that most hawkers are trying to portray. Thus, this hawker can significantly
hurt the sales of the many hawkers around him/her without knowing about the
damage being done.
One hawker, Donna, told me: We (she and her husband Keith) wont drink
60


while we are selling. Its too dangerous. Fortunately, (the papers) have been getting
rid of them. If Im a person in a car and I smell a person reeking of alcohol, I
wouldnt buy from them. Its a way to lose customers. It hurts all of us. [Many
people] think all of the hawkers are like that.
In addition, alcoholics can wreak havoc while on the trucks by verbally
abusing the other hawkers. When the alcoholics become loud and obnoxious, fights
often break out on the truck. For all of these reasons, people who are visibly
inebriated are not allowed to sell newspapers. However, one morning I talked to one
hawker who was inebriated to the point of falling over several times during the few
minutes we talked. When the truck came to take him to his spot, he stumbled over,
hopped in, and went away, even though the driver and other hawkers knew his
condition. To the papers credit though, this was the only hawker I saw who was
inebriated or smelled like alcohol during my interviews and observations. Many
hawkers believe that the newspapers are eliminating the alcoholics from the program,
and my research does not indicate otherwise.
Hawkers and Beggars a Clear Difference
Many hawkers clearly differentiate themselves from other individuals who are
on the medians with cardboard signs begging for spare change from drivers and
pedestrians. Several hawkers told me about how these beggars were ruining the
images of hawkers because they use the same locations that hawkers use, albeit at
different times of the day. Hawkers normally use the medians in the morning.
61


Beggars use the medians in the afternoon and evening. The hawkers feared that many
drivers and pedestrians would equate hawking with begging, and thereby would not
buy a paper as often. Miles told me about how people would drive by him and yell
out; Get a job! while he hawked, thinking that he was begging for change when he
was actually trying to earn money legitimately.
He said, I dont like being treated as a second or third-class citizen. People yell out,
Get a job!. A lot of people think that this is all we do. Were just trying to make an
honest living. There are people out there from all backgrounds, but we are lumped
into one category thugs because of the way we look.
Donna put it this way: This is a legal job. Some people who fly signs (beg
with a cardboard sign) have an apartment. I feel like they are lying to people. At
least we can say, were making honest money. We dont make much, but we are not
begging.
Billy stated, You dont know anybody. They dont know you. They may
say that youre panhandling and stealing. The first thing that comes out of the mouths
of people is, Get a job. This isnt a job job per say, but you get up everyday at
five oclock. I tell them, Wouldnt you rather buy a paper from me than for me to
ask you for money?
Sarah told me What is a real job? Work is work. Youre trying to make a
living. Surviving thats work in itself. At least Im not out there stealing, out
killing, hijacking cars. Im just trying to make an honest living. Im working for
reputable companies such as the Rocky Mountain News."
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Another hawker, Brent, noted that he actually does better when people are
near him holding signs. People driving by will tell him, At least youre trying.
A sixth hawker, Bruce, did not care for beggars in the least. He said, At least
were trying to make a living. People carrying signs make more money than we do.
This is a lot better than carrying a sign. You disgrace yourself with a sign.
Day to day lives of hawkers
The day of a hawker typically begins at about 5:30 a.m., either when s/he
arrives at a designated location to be picked up by one of the delivery trucks, or when
s/he arrives at his/her designated spot either by foot, car, or bus. For homeless people
staying in shelters, this pick-up time works perfectly for their schedules, as many of
the shelters release their occupants at 5 a.m. When I first began interviewing
hawkers, the pick-up spot for the Denver Post was at a McDonalds restaurant
parking lot on the comer of Colfax and Pennsylvania Avenue. Several hawkers told
me later that the pick-up location had changed to 14th and Grant. Apparently, the
McDonalds did not like the refuse that was left behind after the hawkers left each
morning. Both of these locations are conveniently located near the shelters and a
good portion of the low-income motels and apartments located on Colfax.
Upon arriving at the pick-up location, most hawkers climb into the back of
their designated trucks. The trucks were standard moving trucks typically used to
move furniture and other large loads. Most trucks had between 10 to 20 people in the
back compartment. The trucks normally have papers stacked in the back, and many
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hawkers use these bundles of papers as a pillow to rest on or as a grip to hold onto
while the truck is moving. However, these bundles are not safe objects to use as
grips, so most hawkers use the side rails of the truck to hold onto when it is in motion.
This brings up a significant safety problem with this method of transport. These
trucks do not have any seats or even seat belts or secure devices for one to properly
hold onto in the rear compartment. There also are no windows for the hawkers to use
to watch the action on the street and prepare for an accident before it happens.
Instead, they are unknowing occupants of a vehicle who must rely upon the skills of
the driver to keep them safe. This danger becomes even greater when you factor in
the number of disabled individuals who hawk papers. The chance for a serious injury
is always present for the latter group when one factors in the restricted ability for
quick movement.
However, from talking to several hawkers about the danger involved in riding
in the back of a moving truck, many of them are not too concerned. First, most of
them have faith in the drivers. Several mentioned that the drivers drive slowly
enough to prevent any sudden starts and stops. Others mentioned that there is little
traffic at six in the morning, so there werent too many opportunities for accidents.
The Rocky Mountain News uses vans for transporting its hawkers, which seems like a
much safer and more humane way of transporting people. However, a couple
hawkers stated that they dislike the vans because they break down too much. They
would prefer to be in the truck because of its dependability. Arriving at ones spot is
the first priority. Safety and dignity come afterward.
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Hawkers tend to work for a particular driver, and each driver has a particular
section of town that is regarded as his/her territory. However, it is important to note
the driver does not receive any portion of the money that a hawker earns. Instead, the
paper pays the drivers according to how well the hawkers sell in their territories. As a
result, drivers and hawkers are dependent upon one another to make their living.
Hawkers must rely upon the drivers to give them financially rewarding spots. Drivers
are dependent upon hawkers to sell a large quantity of papers. Thus, a driver must
have the acumen to be able to find a good location for a hawker to sell papers. When
the working conditions are favorable, many experienced hawkers have a sense of
/
loyalty to a driver. Several hawkers told me that they were very happy working for
their current driver, and that they felt like their driver took good care of them.
Drivers tend to take care of their more dependable hawkers by giving them more
lucrative locations. Hawkers who work a regular schedule and are rarely absent tend
to receive more profitable spots. As they continue to work, they are able to obtain
better locations, which can give them the chance to earn better money.
The drivers drop off hawkers at each spot in their area. When they are
dropped off, a hawker will take a few newspaper bundles with him/her, depending on
the location and the day of the week, and begin selling. Typically on the weekdays, a
hawker will have one to three bundles of papers, each of which has 10 papers. On the
weekends, a hawker will have three to six bundles. The number of bundles a hawker
takes mainly depends on how financially successful s/he is at a spot over time and
how long the hawker will be out selling papers.
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During the weekdays, hawkers typically sell from 6 a.m. until sometime
between 8:30 and 10 a.m., depending on the newspaper they are selling and their
location. Most hawkers in the downtown area stop selling between 8:30 and 9 a.m.,
as the foot traffic along the 16th Street pedestrian mall dies down when white-collar
professionals begin their daily work. Hawkers normally either walk back to the
pickup spot at 14th and Grant or wait until a driver comes by to receive their daily
show-up fee. The papers pay the hawkers a show-up fee for selling the newspapers:
$10 for a weekday and $15 if they work both weekend days. If a hawker is forced to
sell in a new area or in Boulder, s/he receives $25. This increase makes up for the
lower sales that hawkers typically have in those two areas. The hawkers also are able
to keep all of the money made from each sale, which starts at 25 cents for a weekday
paper and 50 cents for the Sunday edition. Each paper has different pick-up times
during the weekdays. The Denver Post hawkers located throughout the city normally
stop around 9 a.m. when the trucks come and pick them up. The Rocky Mountain
News hawkers located throughout the city stay are usually picked up around 10 a.m.
On the weekends, hawkers sell from 6 a.m. until sometime between 2 to 5 p.m.
Sundays are normally the longest days, as they are the most successful selling days
for a hawker.
When the trucks return to pick up the hawkers throughout the city, each
hawker signs in with the driver, notes how many sales s/he had during the day, loads
the remaining papers back into the truck, and then gets into the back of the truck to be
taken back to 14th and Grant. Downtown hawkers walk back to that location to be
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signed in and paid. They leave the remaining papers at their spots to be picked up
later that morning. When all of the hawkers have been picked up and brought back to
this location, the drivers then pay each hawker his/her show-up fee. They then are
free to leave and do as they please. While there is some camaraderie on the comer,
most hawkers go their separate ways when the job is finished. Most hawkers return
to their homes, or go and get something to eat. If it is a weekday, many hawkers go
to their other jobs, or to the temporary agencies to find work for that day. Other
hawkers head straight for the liquor stores or to the bars on Colfax to begin their daily
ritual of heavy drinking.
Out on the Comer
With the bundle of papers ready to go, the hawker is now prepared to begin
selling for the day. Most hawking spots are located on raised medians at intersections
on high-traffic streets in the metro Denver area. These medians give a hawker a long
strip of area to use to market the paper. Typically, an experienced hawker will walk
up and down the median, timing his/her motions to the rotation of the traffic light. A
successful hawker can time his/her walk to pass by each car soon after it has stopped
and the driver begins to look around at his/her surroundings. S/he also will make sure
to glance at each coming car to see if anyone motions for him/her to come over and
sell a paper.
One hawker, Miles, stated, Walking the median is better (for sales).
Otherwise, people dont see you. They are looking ahead. When you walk by, they
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see you.
Another hawker, Bobby, gave me some insight about being out on the
medians. He said, You have to figure out the lights. I take four papers with me at a
time, because I can sell four papers here. Youve got to measure your distance. I can
sell four papers in 60 feet.
Most other hawkers stick with carrying one paper at a time. However, there
are several other techniques that hawkers use to try to sell more papers while they are
out on the corner. One of the primary methods is to display any inserts that are put
inside the paper. Examples of these are advertising specials and sports-related
posters. Bobby displays the Foleys department store ads because his weekday and
weekend spots are near the Park Meadows shopping mall in southern Denver.
Another hawker, Phil, stationed himself outside a Foleys store in Boulder on a
weekend day and used their advertisements to sell papers that day. The method was a
success, as he sold his entire allotment of papers by the early afternoon.
Miles also gave me a personal list of successful strategies that help him
increase his tips and ward off any possible thievery on the part of customers. First,
never give anyone a paper or money before receiving your payment. One hawker had
$40 taken from him by a woman who asked for change from the hawker before
paying him. Other hawkers have been robbed by young teens in search of a thrill.
Second, keep your money in your pocket. People in the turn lanes are often in a
hurry, and they may be willing to forgo their change if a light turns green. Offer to
give money back, but always go into your pocket to get the money. If they see you
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struggle to get the money out, they may tell you to just keep the change. When they
do demand their change, give them back nickels and dimes. People prefer to receive
quarters, and they may opt to give you the rest of the money instead of taking dimes
and nickels. Never give out pennies.
Outside forces can also lead to financial rewards for hawkers. Success on the
part of the local sports teams can also lead to substantial benefits for hawkers. When
the citys professional football team, the Denver Broncos, won its league
championship in two consecutive years, hawkers had a bonanza of sales throughout
the citys subsequent celebrations. Each paper wisely printed colorful poster-sized
inserts celebrating the Broncos success, and fans, wanting to show their undying
support for the team, bought them in droves. During the second year, throughout the
Broncos home playoff games leading up to the championship game, hawkers were
stationed outside Mile High Stadium with papers and inserts celebrating a win for the
team. These papers often held little news-related content within their pages, and what
remained was often merely window dressing stuck next to advertisements. However,
they sold briskly, as many people wanted mementos to keep at home. During the
days immediately after the two championship wins, numerous hawkers were out
selling papers that had inserts celebrating the Broncos success. Phil folded a photo
of the Broncos quarterback John Elway over the front of the newspaper and sold
paper after paper by doing this. He told me, Thats how you sell 70-80 papers.
Several hawkers told me that these days were the most successful they ever
had, as people, giddy with excitement over the teams first and second championship,
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were handing them 10 and 20-dollar bills for a paper that only cost 25 cents. Many
hawkers reported having earnings in the hundreds. Two reported earning more than
$1000 on the day after the Super Bowl. This can be contrasted with a typical day for
many hawkers, which is normally between $10-$40.
One couple, Cowboy and Mary, told me that after the championship game and
the parade, people are hanging $100, $50, $20 out of their windows. They dont
care.
The newspapers were prepared as well for the subsequent victory parades, as
they dispatched hawkers and thousands of papers to the celebrations. At the second
championship parade, there were hawkers for each block, and business was brisk. I
witnessed one hawker sell out an allotment of 20-30 papers within 10 minutes of
setting up a spot on the parade route. People simply wanted the paper for the inserts
inside. Several customers asked this hawker if they could merely buy the insert
without receiving the paper, but the hawker denied their request by telling them that
no one would buy the remaining papers because their inserts were gone, and he was
not going to be stuck with them. Later that afternoon, as I walked around the
downtown area, a brisk wind made it seem as though the city was having a ticker-tape
parade, as single pages of newsprint were flying about in the breeze, long discarded
by their brief owners. Meanwhile, not a single insert was left on the ground, as they
were being used as props for the ensuing rally being held for the team.
On weekends, the television guide and the grocery coupons are the main
selling points that hawkers use. These two items are so important in selling papers
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that the newspapers have changed from selling Saturday and early-edition Sunday
papers on Saturday to just selling the latter. Several hawkers told me that no one
buys the Saturday paper. They simply want the Sunday paper for the coupons and the
television guide.
Phil told me that when he displays a Sunday paper, he makes sure to prop the
television guide in a way that displays the top of its front cover, thereby displaying
the part that says TV Guide. When he opens his bundles of newspapers, he checks
each paper to make sure that they have both the television guide and the coupons. If
the paper lacks either, he puts it aside and does not sell it. It is the loading
dockworkers responsibility to place the correct inserts inside the paper. However,
their mistakes penalize the hawker, who is seen as being responsible for the condition
of the papers that s/he sells. Some time ago, when Phil had just begun hawking, he
sold a paper that did not have a television guide to a woman. After she went back to
her car and checked the paper for its contents, she noticed that the television guide
was missing. This sent her into a fit of rage, as she ran back to where Phil was
standing, threw the paper at him, and verbally abused him while demanding another
paper. While I observed Phil selling papers, several customers asked him if the
Sunday paper he was selling had the television guide and the coupons inside.
Another successful selling strategy is simply having a pleasant demeanor and
greeting drivers in a pleasant fashion. Several hawkers told me that smiling at a
customer and saying Good morning. works best. Others wave hello at drivers as
they go by. One hawker, Ron, told me that he waves at everyone who passes by,
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especially the attractive women. I wait for the light to change and wave at everyone.
If I wave, 90 percent of the people wave back. They are very friendly. However,
Jerry, the other hawker sharing the median with Ron, told me later that Ron doesnt
take hawking seriously and spends too much time waving at people and not selling
papers. While Jerry waves as well to the oncoming traffic, he works the median a bit
harder than Ron and also has the luck of offering the better selling paper in the area,
the Rocky Mountain News.
Having a good disposition puts a customer at ease, especially one that would
not typically roll down his/her window to interact with a stranger. Phil told me, I
hope that my smiling face will help folks out with their day. I try to cheer folks up, to
let them know that somebody cares. Youve got to keep a positive attitude. I try to
stay bright even though I feel lousy.
However, one can go too far in trying to pick up sales. Many hawkers stated
that they did not like others who tried to muscle sales by getting in customers faces.
They associate much of this behavior with the alcoholics who get belligerent while on
the spot after a full day of drinking. These hawkers feel that the paper will sell itself,
and that by yelling at passersby, one will intimidate people and keep them from ever
buying a paper in the future. They believe that by keeping calm eye contact with
drivers, a hawker can be successful with sales. I witnessed one downtown hawker
who would yell out, Rocky Mountain News! at each passerby, and she did not have
much luck selling, even though she had a preferable spot next to one of the Light Rail
stations. From the looks of many people walking by, her efforts had a detrimental
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effect.
Most hawkers learn these tricks of the trade from more experienced hawkers.
These more experienced hawkers do not see the newcomers as competition, so they
are willing to help out other people. Phil learned how to display the Foleys ads and
other inserts from Bobby when he first began selling. Others learn by simply
watching the hawkers around them. At the end of my data collection, I interviewed a
hawker on his first day. He told me that others had given him advice on how to sell,
and I filled in the gaps in his knowledge with what I had learned through my research.
Success and Failure at Hawking
Location and length of stay at a spot are the most crucial parts of whether or
not a hawker can be successful. Hawkers tend to prefer locations that have left-turn
lanes and lengthy traffic signal rotations. This gives a hawker a prolonged period of
time to walk up and down the median, which allows for greater visibility by more
automobile drivers and give him/her a greater chance to visually pinpoint customers.
For example, at the intersection of Alameda and Colorado Boulevard, the hawker
who sells for the westbound traffic has a span of 25 seconds from when the
westbound Alameda traffic stops to when the traffic turning left onto Colorado can
begin moving. The traffic signal rotation involves a left turn signal for the traffic
turning from Colorado onto Alameda, and then a general green light for the Colorado
traffic. Many of the lucrative spots have left-turn signals for all four directions of
traffic, and these turn signals are significant in that they allow a hawker a few more
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seconds of selling time to each group of waiting drivers.
The location in the city also affects how successful a hawker can be.
Typically, the Denver Post sells better in the southern suburbs, while the Rocky
Mountain News sells better in the downtown and metro area. The differences in sales
at a location can be astounding. Jerry, who sells the Rocky Mountain News, averages
40-45 papers a day. Ron, who shares the same spot as Jerry and sells the Denver
Post, averages 2-5 papers a day. Their spot is near central Denver, which may
explain the discrepancy.
In addition, several hawkers told me that being in a location where Caucasian
white-collar professionals are the primary drivers is extremely beneficial to selling. It
is not a coincidence that most of the weekday spots where hawkers are stationed are
either downtown, on the major routes to and from the downtown area, or near the
Cherry Creek neighborhood where many offices and upscale shopping areas are
located. Most weekend locations are in areas where a majority of the traffic is the
same group, with a particular emphasis in the southern part of Denver around the
Park Meadows shopping mall and its surrounding retail areas. On the weekends,
these areas are packed full of people going to shop for clothes and other items. In my
observations, I noticed the same trend. Most customers were middle to upper class
Caucasians.
One hawker in a spot on Alameda and Santa Fe, which had a mixture of
Caucasian, Hispanic, and African-American drivers in its westbound traffic, told me
that the spot was not a good one, because Hispanic drivers typically dont buy papers.
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When they do, he told me that they rarely tip. Another hawker at the same location,
an African-American, told me that she would do better in the Montbello, Park Hill,
and Colorado/I-25 areas because they are the black side of town. She also stated
that Hispanic drivers are not frequent customers. What is also noteworthy is that on
the northbound lane of traffic at that same intersection, two hawkers working that
traffic both reported that business was very good for them. They were getting drivers
coming from the southern part of Denver who were mostly white professionals on
their way to work in downtown. As a result, these two hawkers had both been at their
location for one year and five-six months respectively. The first hawker I interviewed
on the westbound lane told me that this was his first day at that location, and that he
would never return there again. The second told me that she had been there for two
weeks and wanted to find another spot that might be more lucrative.
This dilemma highlights the importance of staying at one comer for a lengthy
period of time, in what is called building up a comer. Building a corner is the
central way for a hawker to be successful and make a respectable amount of money.
What it entails is simply showing up at the same hawking spot for several weeks or
months. By doing this, the hawker can become visible to the regular traffic that takes
a route each day. Most hawkers believe that it takes at least two months to fully build
a comer. The drivers and customers become familiar with the hawker and begin to
expect that hawker to be at that location each day. Several hawkers told me that by
being there every day, they are able to attract more customers. As customers begin
buying papers from them, the hawkers start to accumulate a regular base that they can
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count on every day. As the base grows, typically the tips begin to increase. For
example, many regular customers start paying a dollar for each 25-cent paper they
buy each day. In addition, people also will barter for papers. Hawkers reported
receiving clothing, food, and coffee for papers. During the Christmas season, many
hawkers received gifts of clothes and extra money from their regular customers. As
time goes by, the hawkers get to know their customers and are able to make a
transaction in the way that a particular customer prefers.
Jerry, who averages close to $400 a week, told it to me this way, This spot
(Platte River and Mississippi) is real good for me. Ive been here for a year-and-a-
half, and everyone knows me. The longer youre at a spot, the better youll do. For
me, this is a business. Half of the folks doing this are homeless, and they are happy
with $10. Ive got Christmas cards, stuff for kids [to give away]. Unfortunately, not
many [hawkers] realize how much you can make, so they dont take it seriously.
Jerry has been hawking for two-and-a-half years, doing it six days a week,
including the two weekend days. He has also been at a different weekend spot on
Sixth Avenue for two years and now averages about $250-$260 a weekend at that
location. Perhaps some of Jerrys success stems from the fact that he has degrees in
economics and business and worked at Martin Marietta for 20 years before taking
early retirement and moving to Denver. He is able to see how the business aspects of
the job can help a hawker be successful. These aspects are very similar to the
expectations given to the general workforce: show up for work on a regular basis and
stay focused on the task at hand during your time on the job. Market your product by
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staying visible to the customers that come by. Have a pleasant attitude and treat
others with kindness and respect.
However, most hawkers do not share Jerrys success, and the primary factor
behind this is the fact that they are not able to stay at a spot for a lengthy duration.
An overwhelming majority of the hawkers I interviewed had been at that particular
spot for a month or less. As a result, they were often struggling for customers and
were not making much money. When a hawker misses a day, other hawkers, termed
floaters, will pick up that spot for the day. Two of the hawkers I interviewed were
floaters. If a hawker misses more than a day or two in a row at his spot, his/her spot
is given to another hawker, and there is little chance for the original hawker to retain
the spot in the future. This loss can be significant, especially if a hawker has been at
that one spot for a lengthy period of time. All of the time and energy put into
building the corner is gone, and the hawker will have to go through the same process
again at a new location. Undoubtedly, this means having to get adjusted to making
less money while the next comer is built up.
Hawking Presence and Safety in Denver
As stated before, the two papers have hawkers sell their papers because of the
competition that exists between the two companies. Increased circulation means
more advertising money for a newspaper. The papers make no direct money through
hawker sales, because the hawkers get to keep all money they earn through their
work. Thus, the advertising money helps eliminate the financial losses that the
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newspapers incur through funding the hawking programs. However, it would still
appear that there is little reason for the hawking program, as there are boxes located
throughout the metro-Denver area where customers can buy papers.
Not everyone on the newspaper staff would like to see the hawking program
continue. Ryan McKibben, a former publisher of the Denver Post, said it this way;
We would probably support going away from hawkers on two grounds. The vendors
there create an unsightly scene and cause congestion on many comers. We believe
that hawkers are a bad idea at busy intersections (Keating 1995: G-01).
This brings up another key issue for hawkers: safety. Medians at busy
intersections are not the safest place for an individual to spend lengthy periods of
time. Phil told me that he has almost been hit twice by a car while hawking. The first
time was due to icy conditions. The second was a result of a driver not paying full
attention to what she was doing. Miles also reported being hit by a car while
hawking. Even with the danger involved, hawkers feel that they have the right to be
out there on the medians trying to make whatever money they can. Most hawkers do
not worry about the danger present with the quickly moving traffic. As I spent more
time out on the medians, I became accustomed to the traffic and was able to ignore
the possible accidents that could occur.
However, a few communities in the area have outlawed the presence of
hawkers on the street comers and intersections. Aurora and Littleton have passed
laws banning hawkers from selling newspapers or other items on city streets (Keating
1995: G-01). The hawking coordinator told me that these laws were unfair and they
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keep the hawkers from making the money they need for rent and food. At the end of
1999, after observing two people panhandling on a median, a Denver city councilman
proposed to ban panhandlers, flower peddlers, and hawkers from city streets (Greene
1999: B-01). Fortunately for the hawkers, the proposal was quickly defeated by the
city council after a barrage of criticism from both the papers and homeless advocates.
The circulation manager said that the Post would probably keep the hawkers working
for some time. He personally likes having hawkers out selling papers. He told me:
[Hawkings] a good thing. The homeless get jobs. The hawkers make money. We
get circulation. Most folks that sell papers cant hold other jobs, and this lets them
get money for food and for cigarettes.
Even though there is a great deal of competition between the two papers,
hawkers do not see themselves as part of this battle. While on the medians, there is a
sense of camaraderie between the competing hawkers. Many hawkers see the
competition as something that does not affect their sales. Experienced hawkers often
give selling tips to ones that are just starting, regardless of which paper either is
selling. One hawker, Vince, told me, Competition is between the papers, not with
me. Were both (motioning to the other hawker) trying to make us some money.
His spot partner, Dave, said, We dont see it as competition. If (customers) are
going to buy the Post, theyll buy the Post. Same with the Rocky Mountain News.
Perhaps the fact that many hawkers tend to move from paper to paper tends to dull the
competitive nature of the newspaper business.
Denver is far from being alone in having hawkers on the streets. I spoke with
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one hawker who had previous experience in the business before coming to Denver.
Mike sold papers for seven years in Reno, Nevada before coming to Denver 10 years
ago. He returned to hawking in Denver last summer. He told me that there was no
comparison between the two cities. Mikes hawking experience in Reno was much
preferable than his current situation, as Reno only had one paper serving the
population. In addition, the price of home delivery was not nearly as inexpensive as
it is here in Denver. As a result, he would average about 150 papers a weekday and
between 200 to 300 on the weekend. He now averages less than 10 sales on the
weekdays and does pretty decent at his weekend spot on Interstate 25 and County
Line Road in southern Denver. In Reno, his customers were primarily casino workers
and local residents who come downtown for breakfast. He could work four days and
make approximately $400 a week selling papers. The only downside was that
hawkers had to pay for a portion of each paper they sold, whereas in Denver,
everything is provided to them for free. In Reno, a hawker would pay 25 cents for a
weekday paper that retails for 50 cents. A Sunday paper, which sells for $1.50, costs
a hawker 50 cents. Paying for the paper did not bother Mike, because he was able to
sell a large number of papers each day.
Mike and other hawkers are in a real quandary at the moment, because
hawking sales have significantly decreased over the past two years. Several hawkers
mentioned that a significant decrease in home delivery prices was eliminating many
of the sales they counted on each day. The decrease began when the Rocky Mountain
News began offering a yearlong six-day home delivery package for $3.12. This
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package excludes the Saturday paper. They also offer a six-day package that
excludes the Tuesday paper for $18.95. The Denver Post counters these offers with a
six-day yearlong package for $22.98. Normal seven-day home delivery rates for both
papers are $124, with a half-price offer given to new subscribers. As a result, many
customers have switched from buying single copies from hawkers to getting the paper
delivered to them at home. At those extremely reasonable prices, who could blame
them? Many hawkers have had $175-$250 weekends turn into $25-$30 weekends as
a result of the rise in subscriptions. However, Phil does not worry too much about the
loss of sales to subscriptions. He told me, If people decide to subscribe, thats fine.
Ill pick up another customer to replace them.
How People Find Out About Hawking
There are three main ways that potential hawkers find out about hawking.
The first of these is through close connections, such as family and friends. Donna
and Keith found out about hawking through their daughter, who had been hawking
for some time before the two began fourteen years ago. Other hawkers began after
friends informed them about it. Several of the unemployed hawkers found out about
it after friends saw that they were struggling to find new work after being laid off.
Others, primarily the homeless, discover it through acquaintances, with which they
may cross paths with during the day. Many homeless hawkers are informed about the
work while staying at the shelters. Undoubtedly, the proximity of the morning shelter
release time and the hawker pickup time make the work attractive to homeless
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individuals who wish to earn legitimate money each day. Several other hawkers
began hawking after meeting the hawking coordinator in the streets. Many told me
that he came up to them and asked them if they wanted to make some money that day
by selling newspapers. They took him up on his offer and have continued to this day.
One of the selling points of hawking is the guaranteed daily income. Hawkers
are paid six days of the week, with Saturdays earnings being given on Sunday if a
hawker works both days. However, if a hawker does not work both weekend days,
s/he is not given a show-up fee for working only one day. Additionally, if a hawker
sells both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, termed double-selling, s/he -
does not receive a show-up fee from either paper. The reasoning behind this is
because double-sellers normally make enough money to not require the fee, and each
paper wants to discourage hawkers from selling the other paper. However, a few
hawkers sell both papers because of the extra income. They are guaranteed a sale no
matter which paper a customer wants. I frequently saw customers refuse to buy the
competing paper when their first choice was not available at a spot.
Another selling point of hawking is the fact that the money from hawking is
not recorded, thus making it virtually untaxable. The Post treats the hawkers as
independent contractors hired daily to sell the paper, thereby not affiliating them in
any way with the paper. They only sign in at the end of each day to account for their
sales, which helps the paper determine their total circulation numbers. Because they
are considered self-employed, the hawkers do not fill out tax forms with the papers.
Thus, their undocumented earnings are virtually untraceable by the government,
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which in turn gives the hawkers more money on which to survive.
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CHAPTER 5
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
Hawking clearly highlights many of the issues contained within the
anthropology of work. Work is central to personal identity, and hawkers identify
themselves by the work that they do. Many told me that they gain a sense of dignity
simply by going out and trying to earn a little money each day. They feel that
hawking is a valid form of work. Unfortunately, hawking is distinctly marginalized
by the society as a whole, through low earnings, verbal insults, and the stereotypes
held of many hawkers as alcoholic vagrants trying to beg for money. Thus, hawkers
are forced to overcome social exclusion.
However, when viewed as a whole, hawking is extremely beneficial to the
participating individuals and to society as a whole. First, it gives the homeless in
Denver an outlet for earning legitimate money without resorting to begging. Granted,
the earnings that most hawkers make are meager, but if a hawker is unable to sell one
paper during his/her shift, s/he is guaranteed $10 each day, enough to at least eat
twice during the day. Second, hawking gives underemployed and unemployed
unskilled workers extra money to help make ends meet. With the seasonal variability
of construction work, and the overall variability of temporary work, hawking is a
guaranteed source of income for individuals who are unable to maintain employment
throughout the year due to a lack of employable skills. In addition, it helps
complement the low earnings that most unskilled workers receive through other jobs.
Third, hawking provides the physically disabled with light work that can be
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accomplished with little physical effort. Many hawking spots are tailored to meet the
needs of the disabled, as they do not require much movement on the part of the
hawker. Fourth, the elderly and other individuals living on retirement pensions can
use the income gained from hawking to help complement their monthly payments. In
all four cases, the cash payment of the sales and show-up fee make tracing the
earnings for tax purposes virtually impossible, thereby helping the hawkers make
ends meet in an easier fashion.
Barring a rash of traffic accidents involving hawkers, it seems very likely that
the program will continue for some time as the two rival newspapers continue to
furiously compete against one another. The only other obstacle that could hamper the
hawking program is local governmental efforts to eliminate public vending on city
streets. However, recent attempts to curb hawking in the city of Denver have proven
futile, and a reversal in political opinion could probably only happen if people were
hurt while out on the comer.
Even as the local economy continues to thrive, hawking and other informal
jobs are still being used by a portion of the population to earn money to take care of
their needs. Because of the variability of unskilled work and the frailty of the human
body, hawking provides a necessary working environment that can be used by
individuals who cannot find regular, steady work in the formal economy. Thus, the
continuance of these programs and other informal economic strategies is a necessity
for these individuals.
However, it is also a necessity for the community, as it provides daily income
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for the homeless and other poor individuals. This income could possibly alleviate
some individuals need for panhandling and even petty crime to obtain money for
survival. Because the need for hawking is fueled by competition for sales and
advertising, financial assistance for the hawkers is privately funded through the
advertising revenues obtained by the Post and the Rocky Mountain News. This also
alleviates some of the poors reliance upon public assistance to meet daily needs.
Instead, they are able to earn money through honest work and reap the benefits,
however meager they may be.
Are the avenues of the homeless, the unskilled, and the elderly narrowed
down to merely hawking? No, but many people in these conditions do not know of
many other options, and many are unprepared for the ones that are open to them. For
the most part, skill deficiencies are the primary obstacle facing hawkers looking for
other work. With the global economy transferring labor to the emerging Asian,
Eastern European, and Latin and South American countries, the demand for unskilled
and low-skilled workers in this country has decreased, and this downward trend is
certain to continue as more corporations transfer their labor abroad. More work for
the unskilled needs to be available.
Numerous individuals told me that they planned on hawking until the program
was discontinued. They felt no need to return to the realm of formal employment,
and they were earning enough money to meet their needs. Most of these long-term
hawkers were homeless, and they felt that they were able to get by through hawking
and the services provided by the missions and the government. A few told me that
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hawking was the best thing that ever happened to me. It provides them with a
guaranteed income each day that is enough to take care of their food and other
necessities. For all of these reasons, hawking is a beneficial part of life in Denver,
Colorado. It is able to help those who would otherwise be dependent upon social
services to earn legitimate money on a consistent basis. For many, it helps fill in the
void between having a formal job and being absolutely destitute.
However, hawking still is seen as a marginalized form of work. Hawkers do
not earn very much money, and several complained of being verbally abused by
passersby. Others had the more unfortunate luck of being robbed because of their
vulnerability out on the medians. The question is why is hawking given a
marginalized status in the employment spectrum? It primarily is because of the lack
of skills and education needed to do the work. Anyone can start the first day with the
basic knowledge needed to be a hawker. There are a few skills that one can pick up
from other hawkers but for the most part, everything that is needed to be successful
should already be known when one first hits the comer. This society values
education and skills, and rewards those individuals who possess both through high
status and good earnings. Hawking requires neither, and thus it is placed at the
bottom of the employment hierarchy.
Yet even though hawking is not a valued form of work, it is successful for
many individuals as an earning strategy. They are able to earn enough money on
which to survive. They value the work they do, which counters the mainstream view
of hawking as an unskilled form of work with little social value. Thus, many hawkers
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are fighting to build status to a job that is marginalized within the mainstream society.
They see their work as honest and valid.
So why do they choose a marginalized form of work when there are
theoretically many legitimate jobs to be had in the local economy? Primarily because
of a bodily dysfunction, no physical address, or a lack of marketable skills or
knowledge about the job-hunting process. Each of these individual problems can put
a job applicant in a significant hole even before the job-hunting process even begins.
More importantly, these factors can crucially weaken ones emotional strength,
thereby making obtaining work a much more treacherous ordeal. Marginalized work
becomes a more attractive option as disappointments and struggles mount.
Others choose this type of work because they do not fit into the standard form
of work, and they do not have any need to do so. They are not interested in working a
full-time job, much less a part-time one. As long as they can make enough through
hawking to get by to the end of the day, this informal work is all they need.
However, through the statements made by the hawkers, we can see the
structural factors weighing in on their job choice. Skill and education will continue to
be valued in this society, and thus low-skilled jobs such as hawking will be relegated
to the lower end of the employment spectrum. In addition, capitalism cannot exist
without some members of the population being unemployed. Unemployment and
underemployment are unfortunate results of the economic system that has made this
society prosperous. Low levels of unemployment and high levels of overall
economic prosperity cause inflation rates to rise, thereby upsetting the financial
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community (Yates 1994: 69). This unrest in the financial community often causes
governmental officials to cut social services and raising taxes, thereby increasing the
rolls of the unemployed and underemployed (Yates 1994: 69-70). Thus, spending
will decrease, forcing employers to cut their payrolls as fewer purchases of their
products are made. As a result, many individuals are forced to rely upon part-time
low-skilled work such as hawking to survive after losing a job.
The American work ethic is still evident at the bottom levels of the working
world. Most of these hawkers work diligently during their time on the comer. They
value the work they do, and have picked up and used skills that make the job more
profitable. Hawking can be considered low-skilled work, as it requires little formal
training and a small amount of skills needed to be successful the ability to show up
day after day on a consistent basis, constant walking up and down medians, and
displaying the paper and its inside contents in a prominent way. It is a simple public
relations job, and a good hard-working appearance goes a long way. It significantly
contributes to a hawkers ability to build a comer.
However, hawking is not a long-term solution for these men and women.
Additional efforts need to be made to make available programs that can teach these
individuals skills that will help them land good-paying permanent work. Hawkers
want to work. As one of them told me, Ive never been a guy to stand there and hold
a sign and get something for nothing. The opportunities are just not there for them
to find sustainable employment in the formal economy. Plus, the problems of
disability, age, and homelessness put many of these hawkers at a great disadvantage
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when faced against other applicants. For right now, hawking is a temporary crutch on
which to stand until more help becomes available.
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CHAPTER 6
POSTSCRIPT
On May 11, 2000, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News announced
that they had agreed to combine their business operations and end the competition for
circulation and advertising, thereby ending a century of battle over readership in the
\
city (Booth 2000: Al). This agreement was reached due to continued financial
difficulty on the part of the Rocky Mountain News, which had operating losses of
$123 million since 1990. The two will enter into a joint operating agreement (JOA)
that will allow both papers to publish editions on the weekdays. However, there only
will be one paper published on the weekend days. The Rocky Mountain News will
publish the Saturday paper, while the Denver Post will be in charge of publishing the
Sunday papers.
The Denver Post is the clear winner in the JOA, as it has editorial control over
the Sunday edition, the cornerstone of any newspaper business. Unfortunately, the
losers in this joint agreement could be the hawkers. Having two editions on the
weekdays will continue the need for hawkers in the metro area. However, only
having one edition published on the weekends could reduce the number of hawkers
selling papers on these two days significantly. Saturday and Sunday are the money
days for hawkers because of increased time on the corner and the rapid jump in sales
through coupons and the TV Guide in the Sunday edition. The papers may only need
half the number of hawkers to sell newspapers on Saturday and Sunday because of
91


the ensuing lack of competition between the two dailies.
One of the hawkers, Jerry, shares this perception.
[The JO A] will cut down on the number of hawkers. At a lot of weekend
spots, there are two hawkers. This is definitely going to cost them. My boss talked to
me about the JO A. He said that it will take a while to happen, and it will hurt the
truck drivers as well, because they are independent contractors. It will cut the drivers
in half.
Jerry did not seem overly concerned about himself because of his current
earnings. Right now, he double sells both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver
Post on weekends, which means that he does not have to compete with another
hawker for sales. He felt that home delivery prices would increase after the JOA was
accepted, a belief publicly shared by the chairman of the Denver Post (Booth 2000:
Al). For several years, delivery prices have been extremely low for both papers, and
Jerry felt that they would return to higher and fairer prices (approximately $160/year
in his opinion) in the coming year. This could lead to an increase in hawker sales that
could help them regain the losses they have suffered over the past few years. Jerry
lost 30 percent of his sales due to the drop in home delivery prices.
However, the single weekend edition could doom the efforts of many of the
hawkers before these increases could gradually take effect. Having fewer people
selling on the sales-heavy weekends will have immediate effect on many hawkers. It
could keep several hawkers from making enough money to survive, putting their lives
in greater limbo. As a result, the future for hawkers could be an uncertain and
92


difficult one.
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BIBLIOGRAPHY
Alexander, Leslie B. and Lenard W. Kaye
1997 Part-Time Employment for the Low-Income Elderly: Experiences from
the Field. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.
Ashton, David and Malcolm Maguire
1991 Patterns and experiences of unemployment, in Poor Work:
Disadvantage and the Division of Labour. Phillip Brown and Richard
Scase, eds. pp. 40-55. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Auletta, Ken
1982 The Underclass. New York: Random House.
Banfield, Edward
1970 The Unheavenly City. Boston: Little, Brown.
Bernard, H. Russell
1995 Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative
Approaches, 2nd ed. Walnut Creek, Calif.: Altamira Press.
Booth, Michael
2000 Truce ends newspaper war. Denver Post. May 12, 2000. pg. A-l.
Bourdieu, Pierre
1977 Outline of a Theory in Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press.
Brett, John
2000 Personal communication.
Burbach, Roger et al.
1997 Globalization and its Discontents: The Rise of Postmodern Socialisms.
London: Pluto Press.
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Full Text

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ON THE CORNER A VIEW OF THE LIVES OF NEWSPAPER HAWKERS IN DENVER, COLORADO by Sam Cammack B.A., Mississippi State University, 1995 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Anthropology 2000

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2000 by Sam Cammack All rights reserved

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This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Sam Cammack has been approved by John Brett Stephen Koester 21, ()/ Date

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Cammack, Sam (M.A. Anthropology) On the Comer: A View of the Lives ofNewspaper Hawkers in Denver, Colorado Thesis directed by Professor Kitty K. Corbett ABSTRACT This research focuses on the lives of newspaper hawkers in Denver, Colorado to determine the factors behind why individuals tum to informal forms of employment in times of economic prosperity. Newspaper hawking, here defined as publicly selling newspapers on medians at street intersections and street comers to passersby, has become a viable option for individuals in Denver who feel that formal forms of work are either unavailable or undesirable to them. However, this form of work is stigmatized in mainstream society, as the work is often equated with public begging and the earnings are low. This work examines the lives and job histories of hawkers selling papers for the two daily newspapers in Denver, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. Four common themes arise in these hawkers' lives that have led them to hawking: having a lack of marketable job skills, being physically disabled, being too old, or not having a fixed address. Each of these factors has laid a significant roadblock in front of these hawkers' attempts to make it in the formal, "nine-to-five" world. Through the words of the hawkers, one can see how informal jobs such as hawking are essential to individuals and the economy at large. First, hawking provides many individuals with a viable employment option for maintaining economic survival. Second, it provides other individuals with an informal option to help supplement their earnings in the formal workforce. Third, it eliminates some of the need that many individuals have on public assistance through its guaranteed payment each day. This abstract accurately represents the content ofthe candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication. Signed iv

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Many thanks must go out to my advisor, Kitty Corbett, and to rest of my committee, John Brett and Stephen Koester, for their continued advice and support through these past few months. I also must extend extreme thanks to my mother and father, and most importantly to my wife Dana, who have encouraged me throughout the process and kept me on track when my wheels were spinning. In addition, I would like to thank each of the hawkers who contributed to this work for their kindness and insight. Without their help, this work would not exist.

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CONTENTS CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................... 1 2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ...................................................... 4 The Concept of Work .......... ......................................................... 6 Job Loss and Unemployment.. ..................................................... 15 Factors Behind Difficulty in Reentering the Workforce ......... .... .. 19 Unskilled Workers ............................................................ 19 Disability ........................................................................ ... 22 Age ........... ...... .... ... ...... .......... .......................................... 27 Homelessness .................................................................... 29 Public Policy Problems .................. ........ ... ............. 32 The Informal Economy .............. .... ..... .... .... .................. ... ..... .... .... 33 Thoughts on the Literature ................... .... ......... ............... ..... .... 35 3. 1\ffiTHODOLOGY ............................................................................... 39 4. FINDINGS ........................................................ ........ .... ......... ... .......... 50 Factors Behind Hawking .... ...... ........... ........... ............................ 50 Alcoholism and Hawking ............................................................... 59 Hawkers and Beggars -a Clear Difference .................................... 61 Day to day lives of Hawkers ....... .. ... ................................. 63 Out on the Comer ......................................... : ................................. 67 Success and Failure at Hawking .................................................... 73 Hawking Presence and Safety in Denver ....................................... 77 How People Find Out About Hawking .......................................... 81 5. CONCLUDING THOUGHTS ........................................................... 84 6. POSTSCRIPT .................................................................. 91 BffiLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................... 94 vi

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CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Denver, Colorado is a city on the rise -a place where the economy is booming, people are flocking to live, and the atmosphere in general is pleasant and welcoming. As one drives along the major streets of the city, one sees signs of economic progress such as new homes and businesses being built, roads being expanded, and older homes being redone in many neighborhoods. Through these images, Denver looks like a center of economic and social prosperity. However, as one continues to drive along the bustling city streets, one will end up seeing a different picture numerous untidy men and women standing on medians at busy intersections displaying copies of the two metro newspapers for sale. The newspaper hawkers' presence typically marks a noted contrast between their surroundings and their situation: bustling urban and suburban growth and prosperity against poverty and day-to-day survival. Many questions surround the hawkers' presence in the city. In a community enjoying the economic success of Denver, why are there hundreds of individuals out on street comers and medians selling newspapers? Aren't there better paying, "normal" jobs available? Why would someone choose to hawk newspapers? What are the demographics of the hawkers, and how do their backgrounds contribute to hawkers' current situations? Why do the newspapers in Denver use hawkers to sell newspapers in the metro area? How can a hawker be financially successful? How do hawkers fit into the local economy, which for the most part has forced them out onto 1

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the margins? This research also sheds light on the broader issues dealing with the anthropology of work and how people value different types of work in this society. As the research shows in the hawkers' words, we assign certain values and status to different forms ofwork. Hawking is stigmatized by mainstream society. Legitimate work is often seen as steady, "nine-to-five" employment, with regular pay, job security, and benefits maintaining employee loyalty to the company. Hawking cannot lay claim to any of these common perceptions of employment. The work is not guaranteed, the hours depend on the day, the only regular pay is a "show-up" fee, and there are no benefits nor any company loyalty. However, many hawkers consider this legitimate work, and this research supports their claim. So what makes a job legitimate or stigmatized? Why does a person choose a marginal job when there are theoretically many standard jobs available in the local economy? How do these jobs fit the needs of individuals who feel that they are not viable candidates in the traditional working world? Are hawkers trying to gain some sense of success while they struggle to survive? At the bottom line, how does the work done by hawkers shed light on our system and conceptions of work? In addition, this research breaks apart the common stereotype given to hawkers and other public peddlers: that of the homeless drunk or indigent trying to earn money for alcohol and other narcotics. My own misconceptions of alcoholism, transience, and general disconnection caused by the visual images projected by hawkers on the medians as representing a monolithic type of marginal individual in 2

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American society -were shattered by the diversity of current situations and backgrounds represented by the hawkers I interviewed. As I saw in the words of the hawkers themselves, I was not alone in my preconceptions. Several hawkers complained of having passersby yell out, "Get a job!" while they were selling papers. Hawking is often equated with public begging, even though a hawker is exchanging a viable product for money as opposed to simply asking for money without any use of human energy. What hawking shows is that these people are willing to earn money to survive, contrary to public opinion. Second, it shows that unskilled work does not always mirror popular perception Hawking does not involve tough, physically demanding labor, a common stereotype given to blue-collar and unskilled work. This research explores the lives of hawkers in Denver and how their roles as hawkers are shaped by mainstream society's expectations of low-skilled work. Thus, it is necessary to begin with a review of the literature concerning the anthropology of work, as well as dealing with homelessness and other urban problems. This thesis starts with a look at the methodology being used to answer the questions of why people use newspaper hawking as employment and why they choose stigmatized informal means of work over theoretically available traditional ones. Demographic information and an overview of the daily working life of hawkers will be given, before concluding with a discussion of the microand macro-level issues behind the phenomenon of newspaper hawking. 3

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CHAPTER2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Working is central to individual identity in Western society. We are defined I by our work, and most individuals take being able to work for granted. In areas where the economy is strong and jobs are plentiful, the fact that there are unemployed individuals in the community with few options for work seems astonishing However, because of their lack of success in finding work, many people in Denver, Colorado and other metropolitan areas in the United States are forced into informal avenues for obtaining employment. One avenue for earning money is through newspaper hawking. Even with a strong economy and various available jobs, both micro and macro-level reasons exist for why many individuals either are not able to work or are only able to work on a part-time basis. The first of these is a lack of skills on the part of the potential employee. In the emerging information-based economy, unskilled workers have seen their opportunities and power in the workforce diminish As the global economy continues to grow, many employers of unskilled labor are leaving the United States and venturing to developing nations to earn greater profits from lower wages and poorer working conditions in these countries. Disability is a second major factor. Individuals who have either a physical or mental disability are limited in the types of work they may pursue, as a disability either limits the tasks that one can accomplish or affects an individual's ability to negotiate many work environments Improvements, such as the passing of the 4

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Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, have been made in the ability of the disabled to gain work, but many individuals still face extreme hardship when attempting to obtain a permanent position. A third factor is age Frequently older workers, primarily those who are unskilled or low-skilled, are terminated from their workplaces because of budgetary trimming on the part of corporations. Older workers' jobs often are the first to be trimmed, because younger workers can be found who can be paid less to perform the same job. After losing work, older workers may find themselves out of luck because often they are seen as unemployable because of their age, limited skills, m: wage required to live in the same manner as before. With this difficulty, many older workers find themselves in early retirement with no excess money to provide for the future. A fourth factor leading to unemployment and underemployment is homelessness. Being homeless puts a significant strain on the individual, both physically and mentally, which then limits the productive ability of a potential worker ln addition, homeless individuals often are disabled, older, and/or unskilled. Being homeless merely exacerbates the conditions that one faces when dealing with a dim working future. Each of these factors plays a significant part in why many individuals cannot find or hold stable full-time work and must turn to other options, such as governmental assistance or newspaper hawking. A final factor leading to employment problems for hawkers is the fact that our society is not set up to accommodate full employment. Regrettably, unemployment is 5

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a necessary side effect of the various forces present in the capitalist system (Yates 1994: 70). In addition, the conservative actions of many public policy leaders have not helped matters for the unemployed and underemployed. Too much emphasis has been placed on forcing individuals to find their own solutions to their working crises and not enough support given to job-placement and skill-improving programs. This study proves that the work ethic is still alive and well at the bottom levels of the workforce, and that the popular perception that the poor are lazy and wasteful is incorrect. Newspaper hawkers often deal with one or more of these factors. This section is designed to give the theoretical framework necessary to elucidate why individuals tum to low-wage part-time positions such as hawking. It is therefore essential to look at how the concept of work is defined, and how crucial work is to individuals in our society. In addition, this section will examine the five barriers to work listed above and how each barrier affects the individual. Lastly, the literature regarding informal methods of employment will be discussed to clarify how crucial the informal economy is for low-income members of Western society. The Concept of Work Work is the central organizing principle by which individuals structure their lives (Pappas 1989: 75). It can be defined as the expenditure of energy to accomplish a goal, with some sacrifice of time, comfort, and leisure (Wallman 1979: 4). Marx saw work as developing the bare essence of a human being through production (Mills 6

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1951: 218). Work is about control: control over nature, over fellow people, and over financial capital. Many of the socio-cultural factors behind work are concerned with how one person or group of people has control over another, whether it be immediate control through directing the actions of others or by indirect means through limiting or devaluing the resources available to others (Wallman 1979: 2). In virtually every job, an employee sells a part of his/her independence; his/her working life is under the control of others; and his/her skills are dependent upon how another wishes for them to be used (Mills 1951: 224). In addition, an individual's self-esteem may be reliant upon how one is able to use social power while working (Mills 151: 232). By working, an individual fulfills two societal obligations: financial sustainability and social inclusion. Workers exchange their time and energy for financial compensation, which in tum allows them to sustain their nutritional, and social needs. For many individuals in Western society, the purpose of work is to earn enough to provide for individual and familial needs. However, the second obligation holds as much relevance as the first. Friedman and Havighurst identify four social functions of full-time work: 1) to regulate life-activity; 2) to provide a sense of identity for an individual; 3) to establish important social relationships with others; and 4) to provide meaningful life experiences (Friedman and Havighurst 1954; cited in Alexander and Kaye 1997: 34-35). Work gives an individual a daily schedule and routine to live by. Labor specialization provides an individual with an identity that is central to his/her being (Wallman 1979 : 13). We are identified by the types of work we perform. A person's work gives one a fate in life; one that is as important as 7

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choosing a mate (Hughes 1958: 43). That identity is confirmed by using loaded value words when work is discussed among colleagues (Hughes 1958: 44). Work also allows us to interact with other individuals and to set up close relationships with others. Lastly, it gives us meaningful memories that can be transferred to other people. work has been a significant point of study for urban anthropology and sociology since the early twentieth century, beginning with studies examining the effects of urbanism upon individuals. Through these studies, we have been able to see the social connection between work, the individual, and society. Max Weber was one of the first modem individuals to examine the culture of cities (Sennett 1969: 5). He looked at cities as whole entities and stated that individuals living in cities were dependent upon the purchasing power of other consumers {Weber 1969 [1921]: 26). That is, if an individual has a trade of some value to others, that individual has a greater ability to be financially successful. He saw cities as whole representations of the economic opportunities of their occupants. That is, one can identify a locale by the dominant forms of production that take place within its boundaries. For example, one can identify Pittsburgh with the steel mills, or New York City with its financial district. Weber's concepts were further elaborated by a group of researchers from the University of Chicago, in what has been referred to as the Chicago School. Several prominent voices have emerged from this setting, and their research laid the groundwork for future work done in urban studies. The Chicago school arose out of a 8

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need to challenge Weber's beliefofthe city as a whole; instead they wished to examine individual aspects that make up a city and how each facet relates to one another (Sennett 1969: 12). Robert Park, considered by many to be the first voice of the Chicago school, noted that the "economic organization of the city is based on the division of labor. The multiplication of occupations and professions within the limits of the urban population is one of the most striking and least understood aspects of modern city life" (Park 1969 [1916]: 92). Employment specialization broke down the previous forms of identification, which were based on familial relations or caste and supplanted them with one based on vocation (Park 1969 [1916]: 102). Park states that all individuals, even beggars, identify themselves by a profession. Through these professions, individuals form social organizations that tie them to their community (Park 1969 [1916]: 102). Park and his colleagues did much to shed light on urban life and the employment opportunities for the city's inhabitants. They also helped tum attention towards urban poverty. A great deal of their effort was focused on how the lack of sufficient work has depressed local economies (Wilson 1996: 17). In many cases, these studies on urban poverty and the lack of work in depressed areas focused on how a lack of education and marketable skills led to employment difficulties for individuals Labor specialization creates an imbalance of power in society based on one's job title and experience. As a society, we value certain types of work over others. Education, experience, and contacts all play a part in how society values various occupations. How one values one form of work over I another depends on the values of the society in which one lives as well as one's status 9

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within the society (Wallman 1979: 8). Where one's status rests is crucial to identity and how one values others, as it limits or expands one's access to resources and determines whom one will interact with on a working and social basis. An individual makes many choices in life and garners the skills necessary to move in a certain direction in the workforce and in the social and economic hierarchy (Hughes 1958: 44). That person's choices are limited by several conditions, most notably his/her amount of social knowledge available at the time of a crucial decision. Bourdieu refers to this social knowledge as capital (Mahar et al. 1990: 13). Capital acts as a form of social relation within an exchange, and the term may be used for "all the goods, material and symbolic, without distinction, that present themselves as rare and worthy of being sought after in a particular social formation" (Bourdieu 1977: 178). It contains material things, symbolic capital (prestige, authority, status), and cultural capital (culturally-valued consumption and taste patterns) (Mahar et al. 1990: 13). The capital that one possesses plays a significant part in how successful one will be in the job market. Individuals of upper-class origin will inherit substantially different cultural capital than those in working-class origin (MacLeod 1987: 12). Schools and society in general reward the capital held by those in the upper classes and devalue the capital held by the working class In school, children who acquire linguistic and cultural competence characteristic of the upper class from their family upbringing have greater success than those who do not have a similar background do. As one grows older, this competence evolves into an array of skills that allows an 10

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individual to become successful in the workforce. Those who have skills, primarily white-collar skills, typically are successful socially and financially. Those without skills commonly end up either in low-paying jobs or unemployed. Along with capital, Bourdieu introduces the concept of habitus, which may be defined as the ideas, beliefs, and attitudes that help define one's world (MacLeod 1987: 13). The amalgamation of deeply internalized beliefs helps shape an individual's attitudes towards all parts of life. As stated previously, working class beliefs are not accentuated in the educational system and in society. As a result of this invalidation of their values in the classroom, working class students often learn the belief that they have little chance for success (MacLeod 1987: 13). Thus, their aspirations toward success may be leveled, opening the door for failure in adult life. They then are pushed into the secondary labor market; one that is characterized by short-term employment, low wages, constant instability, and little chance for upward mobility (Eames and Goode 1980: 282). In short, they have a life of dead-end jobs in front of them. Bourdieu 's concepts of capital and habitus limit the possibilities of human agency (MacLeod 1987: 14). His theory leaves little opportunity for individual determinism and non-conformity. There is no escaping the symbolic order that society forces upon the individual. This is one side of the long-standing debate about the causal factors behind poverty, whether society in general or the individual is at fault for one's dire situation (Auletta 1982: 31). Many social scientists, most notably behaviorists, feel that individual factors, such as personal attitudes, are the reasons for 11

PAGE 18

individual poverty (Auletta 1982: 34). One of the traditional individual viewpoints regarding the poor is that they are destitute because, in their eyes, it is easier to go without income than to perform the work needed to obtain it (Sackrey 1973: 25). Thus, they are poor by choice (Snow and Anderson 1993 : 253). This "simple-minded" view ofurban poverty obviously ignores the many factors that affect an individual's income, such as parental family status, ethnicity, education, and region of residence (Sackrey 1973 : 25). In addition, the overwhelming majority of homeless are not in that condition by choice (Snow and Anderson 1993: 253) Snow and Anderson found that in their sample of 63 homeless individuals in Austin, Texas, only 6.3 percent were homeless by choice. Another fallacious argument is Banfield's belief that the poor are poor because of their "lower-class behavior patterns" (Banfield cited in Sackrey 1973: 26) He gives a few examples of this behavior that are accurate: the inability to keep a job, maintain regular hours, submit to discipline, or stick with training programs. In Banfield's eyes, the poor are too busy "living for the present" to try to change their situation and enter the middle class The problem with this argument is that it is a value judgment, and it does not give any causal factors for these "lower class behavior patterns A more popular explanation is one that focuses on individual disabilities or pathologies that can leave someone vulnerable to poverty and/or homelessness (Snow and Anderson 1993: 256). Several disabilities such as mental illness, poor physical health, alcoholism, and drug addiction contribute to poor economic conditions for 12

PAGE 19

individuals. Another factor is the loss of familial and social support networks. Many individuals who are either poor or homeless do not have a support system to fall back on in times of dire need. Others have simply exhausted their support networks through their long-term behavior. In other words, "those with chronic mental illness, severe alcoholism, and criminal records do not make good housemates and are eased out from under the protective wing of their relatives and friends" (Rossi 1989: 179; cited in Snow and Anderson 1993: 256). Others, such as Bourdieu, argue that societal factors are too burdensome to overcome in dealing with poverty and other economic and cultural difficulties. In his work with poor Latin American families, Lewis wrote that the traits existent in the "culture of poverty" transfer from generation to generation because the individual is surrounded by them from youth onward and cannot act upon any factors that could lead him/her out of the dire situation (Lewis 1975 [1966]: 394-395). While Bourdieu and Lewis's beliefs go against the American ideal of pulling oneself up by the bootstrap, they are clearly witnessed in several examples in the literature written in this country. In Liebow's seminal work Tally's Corner, a neighborhood of poor black men struggle with the fact that they have no entree into the middle class world, having to deal with unrewarding marginal jobs or unemployment (Liebow 1967: 60). Each individual "comes to the job with a long history characterized by his not being able to support himself and his family. Each man carries this knowledge, born ofhis experience, with him. He comes to the job flat and stale, wearied by the sameness of it all, convinced of his own incompetence, terrified of responsibility--ofbeing tested 13

PAGE 20

still again and found wanting" (Liebow 1967: 53-54). They are unable to elevate themselves from their marginal status because of their lack of capital necessary to do so. Their lack of schooling and skills keeps them from garnering well-paying work. While this shows the structural forces working on each individual to keeping him/her down, there is a considerable internalization of blame being given by the individual for his/her status. As a result, many individuals level their aspirations and accept low-status positions as their only option (MacLeod 1987: 113). In doing so, they perpetuate the economic patterns that keep the privileged wealthy and the marginalized desolate. In MacLeod's work with poor urban youth, he found that while in school many of the youth had high expectations upon entering the job market, only to have those dreams fade soon after graduating from school (MacLeod 1987: 127). Substandard environmental conditions and poor academic performances have hindered their ability to find rewarding work. However, they ignore the external forces working against them and focus on their own failure instead. Bourgois finds the same conditions in present-day East Harlem with young Puerto Rican males. Previous generations of workers were able to rely upon a continuous amount of blue-collar industrial labor that was available in the city (Bourgois 1995: 114). These jobs have been phased out over the past four decades as the national economy has shifted from an industrial to a service economy. With many of these young men leaving school at an early age to begin earning money, they have backed themselves into a corner as the industrial jobs disappear from the urban 14

PAGE 21

\ landscape. They are forced into a legal service sector, where their cultural capital has little ground to use for leverage in finding rewarding work, or into an array of menial jobs that are recognized to be the least desirable in the employment spectrum (Bourgois 1995: 115). As a result, many ofthem must rely upon informal means of economic support, most notably drug trafficking. While many of these young men would prefer to make it in the 'legit' world, they are faced with possessing cultural deficiencies in a working society that asks for middle-class values and conformity. They also must deal with menial jobs that do not provide enough money to sustain oneself in a high-cost urban society. As stated before, work has a stabilizing effect upon the individual. Through full-time work, the individual gains a sense of security, as well as identity, social contacts, and experience. Part-time work decreases the level of each of these factors, which can have advantageous or deleterious effects on the individual. However, job loss and unemployment typically erode each of these stabilizing factors associated with work that an individual depends on for survival in society. Job Loss and Unemployment Losing a job can be one of the most traumatic events in an individual's life. Several factors can cause job loss. First, our capitalist economic system cannot handle zero unemployment (Yates 1994: 69). The federal government can reduce the amount of unemployment through fiscal and monetary policies, such as social spending on employment-generating programs. However, as employment levels soar, 15

PAGE 22

so do inflation levels (Yates 1994: 70). These high levels of inflation cause unrest in the financial world, as high prices reduce the monetary value of loans offered by banks. Thus, the financial community will attempt to put pressure on the government to enact policies that will reduce the inflation levels, such as cutting government spending and raising taxes. When these policies are enacted, they often lead to reduced spending by the general population. Reduced spending in tum causes a lowering of the need for workers to produce goods and services. As a result, fewer jobs are needed to maintain the smooth flow of the capitalist system, forcing thousands of people out of the workforce and into dire straits. Job loss is the single greatest fear of Americans (Korten 1995: 22). Only 51 percent of American non-managerial employees feel secure in their positions, down from 75 percent ten years ago (Korten 1995 : 22). There are good reasons to have such fear. Much of the order present in our lives leaves upon becoming unemployed (Pappas 1989: 75). Job loss has a negative effect on virtually every indicator of mental and physical health (Leana and Feldman 1992: 5). Several studies have found that an individual's mental health declines after losing work. People who have lost their jobs have been found to have greater anxiety, depression, unhappiness, or dissatisfaction with life in general. Unemployed individuals typically have lower self-esteem, display shorter tempers, and are more pessimistic about the future. They suffer from increased boredom, a loss of a sense of time and structure, social isolation, and increased feelings of apathy and passivity (Leana and Feldman 1992: 59). In addition, one loses his/her sense of identity upon receiving a pink slip. One's 16

PAGE 23

original feelings of competence and stability are replaced by feelings of incompetence and instability (Pappas 1989: 82) Reemployment, while it does reestablish a personal identity, frequently involves a lowering of status (Pappas 1989: 79). One's physical health declines after being laid off from work (Ashton and Maguire 1991: 50). Job loss has the greatest influence upon psychosomatic illnesses, such as sleeping and eating disorders, headaches, listlessness, and overuse of sedatives (Leana and Feldman 1992: 5). It also contributes to physical problems such as increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, palpitations, and ulcers that can lead to major illnesses Stress is another major concern of the recently unemployed. Continuous stress caused by job loss can lead to deteriorating psychological health, as well as heart disease and ulcers (Leana and Feldman 1992: 11). Along with the health related problems that job loss may cause, the loss of income from work creates serious problems with which the individual must deal. Frequently, the greatest troubles a laid-off worker has are the loss of income and ensuing financial hardship (Leana and Feldman 1992: 187). In work done with former steel workers in Pennsylvania and former space program white-collar workers in Florida, Leana and Feldman found that not having the income to maintain one's living and recreational expenses placed the most significant hardship on the displaced worker when compared to physical and emotional problems. Job loss does not merely affect the individual. One's family feels the brunt of the hardship as well. Layoffs typically stress marriages, as the spouse has to work longer hours and cut household expenditures (Leana and Feldman 1992: 188). 17

PAGE 24

However, most research has been done on changes in employment conditions among spouses and family members. Not enough research has been done on specific emotional and psychological effects of job loss to family members. Each of these factors places an extra burden on the individual ass/he attempts to return to the workforce. As pressures increase and overwhelm an unemployed individual, a feeling of helplessness may overcome him/her. One may begin feeling that any action on his/her part will result in little, if any, change (Leana and Feldman 1992: 57). One may see his/her life flying out of control, with outside actions having the only effect. Over time, searching for a job may seem futile as debilitating factors increase their control over the individual. Studies have shown that the longer an individual is without work, the more intensely s/he will see the job loss as irreversible. Frequently, a recently laid-off worker will reenter the workforce by taking a job that is not as good as the last (Leana and Feldman 1992: 97). Underemployment often results in a worker taking a full-time job that pays less than his/her previous one or a part-time job, such as newspaper hawking. Along with not being able to earn as much money as full-time work, part-time workers have the added disadvantage of being offered few if any benefits, such as health insurance or a retirement plan. These problems do not necessarily occur in every case. Some individuals find that losing work is rewarding and gives them a more control over their direction in life. They are able to reenter the workforce without difficulty and actually benefit from being terminated. However, several reasons make finding reentry into the 18

PAGE 25

workforce difficult for other individuals. A lack of skills, disability, age, homelessness, and ignorance on the part of public policy leaders towards the poor increase the burden placed upon the applicant. Factors Behind Difficulty in Reentering the Workforce Unskilled workers Having a lack of skills is often the primary factor leading to unemployment and instability. In 1991, two million adults worked full-time throughout the year but remained poor despite their efforts (Levitan, Gallo, and Shapiro 1993 : 3). Another 7 2 million worked either part-time jobs or part of the year in full-time jobs. Most of these working poor are individuals who have few to no skills relevant to holding a meaningful position. Because oflimited full-time openings or because of workers' limited job options, low wages, or an inadequate possession of relevant skills, these individuals continue to have low earnings. Unskilled workers had better opportunities for earning in previous decades. During the second World War, unskilled workers earned high wages as a result of other workers joining the armed services, as well as an increased need for wartime munitions (Schwartzman 1997: 67). As a result, the cost ofhiring unskilled workers rose. After the end of the war, many skilled workers began using subsidies in higher education to learn skills that could help them outpace the unskilled Businesses began hiring the skilled over the unskilled. As industry became computerized over the past 19

PAGE 26

few decades, the demand for unskilled work decreased even further. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of individuals who are poorly educated and either unemployed or working part-time or temporary jobs in recent years (Wilson 1996: 26) In the 1970s, two-thirds of working-age males who had not finished high school were working in full time positions during eight out of the 10 years. In the 1980s, only half were. In the inner cities, this number was even lower. This trend has helped widen the gap between the wealthy and the poor. In 1990, the average salary for a typical corporate chief executive officer was 100 times the salary of the average worker, whereas a decade earlier, it was 29 times higher (Burbach et al. 1997: 98) From 1989 to 1993, the typical American household lost seven percent of its income. Fifteen percent of the American population lived in poverty in 1993, with one million Americans joining that category in that year alone The emergence of the global economy and an increase in immigration also has had deleterious effects on the unskilled. International trade has cut deeply into unskilled employment (Schwartzman 1997: 95). Dramatic changes in investment, production, and employment have occurred in the United States as a result of the opening ofthe global market (Devine and Wright 1993: 33). As corporations are closing manufacturing and assembly plants across the nation and moving them to underdeveloped countries to reduce costs, the unskilled are bearing the brunt of the burden through lay-offs (Schwartzman 1997: 95). They now have to compete with 1.4 billion unskilled workers in other countries In addition, increased immigration has affected the status of the unskilled worker by increasing the unskilled population 20

PAGE 27

by as much as three times (Schwartzman 1997: 71). In larger cities, where the majority of the unskilled live, the percentage is much greater. It is clear that educational and skill deficiencies lead to the employment difficulties for poor workers (Levitan, Gallo, and Shapiro 1993: 20). The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 1990, 40 percent of the working poor do not have a high school diploma. As a result, they are relegated to the lower levels of the occupation list. There are a large number of jobs available to the working poor, but an overwhelming majority of these jobs is in service, low-skilled blue collar, and agricultural positions. These jobs typically are at the bottom of the American pay scale, with many falling below the minimum wage mandated by the government. In addition, these low paying jobs often lack a support system, such as health insurance, that could help a worker should a debilitating injury occur during his/her lifetime If this happens, the worker is forced to fend for his/her self to try to pay the mountain of medical bills that come with a major injury. This is extremely difficult to accomplish when one is making a low wage and has no way of saving money for future needs. Another problem for the unskilled worker is the fact that most unskilled positions do not have the possibility of further advancement. A lack of marketable skills gives a worker limited opportunities for advancement to higher paying and higher status jobs. Instead, he/she is forced to be productive at a low wage until he/she is no longer needed by the company or until finding a similar job elsewhere. Having a lack of skills makes job attainment difficult and well-paying job attainment virtually impossible. 21

PAGE 28

In addition, unskilled workers are often the first to join the ranks of the unemployed. People in lower status positions are at the greatest risk upon losing work (Ashton and Maguire 1991: 52). They worry the most about losing their income, because with the threat of unemployment comes the threat of poverty and possible homelessness. In Britain, a study found that half of the unemployed had incomes in the bottom fifth of the earnings distribution prior to being terminated. Whereas a terminated white-collar worker can survive on savings for a period of time, the low-skilled or unskilled worker is faced with immediate financial trouble. Disability Disability can be defined as "any chronic physical or mental incapacity resulting from injury, disease, or congenital defect" (Goldenson, Dunham, and Dunham 1978: xvii). It also can be seen as a social concept. An individual can be viewed as being disabled when one is unable or limited in the ability to perform certain tasks that society expects one to perform (Coudroglou and Poole 1984: 6). Physical disability affects every part of one's participation in society. An individual disabled as an adult is forced to reconstruct the world in order to fit new needs created by the disability. One of the domains to be re-created is the world of work. This can present a tremendous difficulty for the individual as the working environment is often the least plastic of the public domains that a disabled individual faces. As a result, many disabled people must deal with tremendous obstacles in finding work. 22

PAGE 29

The Current Population Survey reported that in 1994, 10.4 million people were unable to work (LaPlante 1995: 2). An additional 6.3 million were limited in the amount ofworkthey could do because of a physical disability. What is most significant about these statistics besides the sheer numbers of the disabled population is that in 1990, the number of people who were unable to work was 6. 7 million while another 7.4 million were 1imited in their ability to work, an increase of2.6 million people. In addition, the percentage of people who are limited in their working ability has risen from nine percent in 1981 to 10 percent in 1994. There also is a significant amount of growth in the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) and in the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI), two cash payment-based programs that are designed to help individuals who cannot meet their financial needs because of disability and other problems. The number of awards ofSSDI and SSI has doubled between 1982 and 1993. SSDI awards went from 300,000 a year to 640,000 in that time; likewise, SSI awards almost tripled from 205,000 in 1982 to 571,000 in 1993. Undoubtedly, both programs have increased their awards since that time. The majority of disabled do not work (Coudroglou and Poole 1984: 35). As a result, they are dependent upon these two programs, as well as Medicare, Medicaid, Workers Compensation, and for those who qualify, Disabled Veterans programs. The first two programs give a recipient a monthly supply of money to use for living expenses. The last four help with medical expenses, but frequently do not cover all of the medical needs of a disabled person, particularly those who are disabled to the 23

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extent they can no longer work and successfully support themselves The disabled who are able to work are most likely to work in part-time positions They typically earn lower wages than their able-bodied counterparts holding similar positions (Oi 1991: 31). Oi gives two hypotheses to account for the low levels of employment among disabled persons. First, medical impairments and limitations in working ability reduce productivity. People who have disabilit i es frequently require lighter work due to possible physical strain. Disability also steals time from an individual. Disabled persons require more sleep and need more time for personal care, chores, the daily commute, and for visits to doctors and hospitals. They may also take more time to recover from illnesses. Second, employers are typically uninformed about the production levels of the disabled. They do not know how much productivity a disabled person can attain. They also do not know how the physical workplace affects a disabled worker and how it can be adapted to fit the needs of this worker. As a result, these two factors can lead to discrimination against disabled individuals in the workforce Many jobs, especially unskilled positions, require physical effort to perform the required work. Disabled persons typically have more difficulty performing these tasks because of physical limitations. These limitations virtually exclude unskilled disabled persons from the only opportunities that were open to them before their disability. As a result, many of them are forced out of the workforce and into financial and emotional instability. They are also forced to rely upon public support in the form of SSI, SSDI, and other programs. 24

PAGE 31

In Phoenix, Arizona, a program entitled People United for SelfHelp, Inc. (PUSH) began in 1970 to help disabled workers meet their financial needs (Coudroglou and Poole 1984: 56). Its founder discovered that most ofthe disabled workers in the area were not receiving any financial compensation for their injury. They either did not have the knowledge about their legal rights or did not have the access to proper health care, thereby limiting the medical evidence that could support their claims. From May 1974 to January 1982, PUSH saw 2,280 clients who had worked in 48 types of jobs or did not work at all and later needed some form of assistance due to disability (Coudroglou and Poole 1984: 75-76). Almost 95 percent of those clients previously worked in unskilled or low-skilled positions before sustaining an injury. Nearly 97 percent ofthese clients did not hold union membership while employed. In addition, the authors note that it seemed safe to assume that before sustaining an injury, a large majority of these workers could only maintain a subsistence level of living on their wages (Coudroglou and Poole 1984: 77). After being injured, maintaining their lives must have been an extreme hardship for most of these clients. Some legal progress has been made since that time. The Americans with Disabilities Act was created in 1990 and was the most significant expansion of civil rights law since the 1960s (Levitan, Gallo, and Shapiro 1993: 79). It has been seen as the culmination of years of work that began two decades before as the disabled began asserting their equal rights as American citizens. The ADA's employment provisions prohibit discrimination against disabled persons in all aspects ofthe employment 25

PAGE 32

process, including practices dealing with hiring and firing. It states that employers of more than 15 persons are required by law to make appropriate accommodations that are necessary for a disabled employee to successfully gain and maintain a position in the workplace when those changes do not create undue hardship on the employer. While this has given disabled persons a better shot at reentering the work force, their path still is not a smooth one By having to deal with the cost of accommodating disabled workers, employers often are forced to shift the financial burden of accommodation onto the consumer, thereby potentially losing customers who may balk at a higher price for goods (Weaver 1991 : 15). This could keep employers from potentially hiring the disabled. This higher cost of accommodation can discriminate against the unskilled disabled worker even more because of the low amount of financial support that employers typically put into unskilled work. Because of this low level of investment on the part of an employer, an unskilled worker cannot make his/her contribution worthy of the cost required to maintain employment. However, the ADA has made inroads for many disabled workers. Disabled workers who possess relevant job skills are successful in integrating themselves into the workforce. Yet, this is not the case for their unskilled counterparts. Disabled individuals who are unskilled face extreme hardship, as the ADA's policies have not reached the 'doubly handicapped' (Burkhauser 1993: 205). Poor education typically leads to poor employment options and earnings. Individuals with skills are quickly leaving the unskilled behind. Thus, an unskilled disabled worker must compete against the able-bodied that are both skilled and unskilled, as well as against disabled 26

PAGE 33

workers who are skilled. It is very easy to see how the 'doubly disabled' are quickly left behind. Increased attention has been given to the phenomenon of older workers in recent times, as many older workers have either lost their jobs because of layoffs or retirement and have returned to the workforce in part-time positions. Older workers typically are the first to be downsized during company cut-backs. From 1967 to 1986, the percentage of the population 55 and older that worked dropped from almost half to one-third (Alexander and Kaye 1997: 6). This decline has occurred across the spectrum, but it has been especially large for the poorly educated. Displaced older workers who have limited skills may have a harder time finding work if widespread layoffs occur in their field (Hutchens 1993: 1 02). They are unable to use the skills honed over the years because of a lack of need on the part of other employers. Several studies have found that middle-aged and older workers have more difficulty reentering the workforce. They are not as likely to find jobs that use their full range of skills (Hutchens 1993: 81). Leana and Feldman found that many ofthe older workers in their sample who were laid off felt that age was a primary factor behind their termination (Leana and Feldman 1992: 30). They found that many of the companies later hired younger individuals to take positions previously held by these older workers. Many employees prefer to hire younger workers for positions because of the 27

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increased number of years that a younger worker can devote to the job (Hutchens 1993: 83) In addition, training costs often make younger workers more desirable. Because of the rising cost of training new employees in many professions, employers often want to recover their costs through long-time investment on the part of the new employee. This also allows employers to establish firm relationships with long-term employees. Constant turnover has little in many workplaces. Because of the perceived transitory status of an older worker, they are not seen as desirable new hires. As a result, many older workers are currently working in part-time low-wage positions. Part-time work does not require the training investment that long-term full time work typically has, which makes employment opportunities better for older workers (Hutchens 1993: 84). Turnover is constant for many employers and duration of employment is not a factor An example might be a fast-food restaurant. Obtaining a responsible worker is of the essence, and age is not normally a factor. Part-time jobs have advantages and disadvantages for older workers. They free up more time to use for personal leisure and help the worker maintain a schedule for the day. However, they frequently represent a step down in status and pay from the career positions that many older workers held in the past (Alexander and Kaye 1997: 74). In Alexander and Kaye's study with elderly workers, they found that the average hourly wage for their sample dropped from between $6.00 and $7.00 an hour to $3.97 for unemployed elders and $4.14 for part-time workers. What makes these numbers stand out is that the initial average was from jobs worked in the late 1970s; 28

PAGE 35

the second average is from 1987-88 However, it certainly seems possible that the drop in the average wage earned may signal a wanted change in job status, as an older worker may want to reduce the amount of job-related stress in his/her life (Hutchens 1993: 82). Whether the reduction in stress and status was warranted by the older worker or not, the reduction in salary is ofutmost concern for most individuals. Research has found that many retirees receive less than half of their pre-retirement income (Levine 1988: 30) This can have drastic effects on the elderly, as they are most likely to suffer from a long debilitating illness that can wipe out savings accrued over the years. Even with federal assistance, many elderly find themselves below the poverty level. Lower part-time wages certainly do not help many of these individuals Homelessness The homeless have the hardest obstacle to overcome in obtaining meaningful work. They frequently have to cope with one or more of the previous barriers to work. Add that to the environmental deficiencies that a homeless individual faces each day and it is clear that the problems they endure are much greater than for individuals who have a secure place of residence. The unavailability of work is one of the primary challenges that a homeless individual faces. Conventional wisdom holds that the homeless are not employed because they are lazy (Snow and Anderson 1993: 111 ). Holders of this belief state that there are large numbers of unskilled jobs available that the homeless refuse to 29

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take, thereby suggesting that people are unemployed because they lack discipline. In reality, the situation is quite different. Using data gathered by the Texas Employment Commission, Snow and Anderson found that the majority of homeless in that population are unskilled and have held blue-collar jobs during their lifetimes (Snow and Anderson 1993: 113). They possess few occupational skills that can be used to secure a higher-paying and higher-status position. In addition, a lack of these skills makes finding permanent work more difficult because the unskilled homeless worker has to compete with members of the general population who possess more skills. Vtr' ant ads are plentiful in metro-area newspapers, thereby giving the image that jobs are plentiful and readily available for anyone who wishes to work. However, as one scans the listings more closely, it becomes obvious that the overwhelming majority of available positions are ones for which an unskilled worker, especially a homeless worker, is not qualified. When one adds the usual necessity of references, a clean appearance, a stable address and phone number, tools, a driver's license, and/or transportation, the barriers to employment become even greater (Snow and Anderson 1993: 117). Homeless individuals have trouble obtaining all of these requirements for permanent work. Homeless people typically are unable to store spare clothes, because of a lack of money or possibility of theft. In addition, the space needed for a shower and money for toiletries are rarely available for the homeless. Most homeless individuals do not have a stable work history, which puts them in the high-risk category in the eyes of potential employers. Transportation is another factor, especially when an individual does find work. Frequently, unskilled 30

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work is found in construction, which normally takes place in suburban areas, far away from the metropolitan centers where most homeless live (Snow and Anderson 1993: 121). Often public transportation is oflittle help, because of the lack of adequate routes to outlying areas. Also, most homeless rely upon the Salvation Army and other charities for meals and places to sleep. These programs have strict schedules for meals and cutoff times for beds. A worker who misses these deadlines because of work scheduling is simply out of luck and must find other ways to be fed or given a bed. Homeless workers' limited skills and education deficiencies usually relegate them to, at best, temporary work at very low wages (Hardin 1996: 46) Day labor, such as newspaper hawking, is often the best option for most homeless individuals. As the term applies, it involves jobs that are secured on a day-to-day basis (Snow and Anderson 1993: 123). Typically, day labor jobs involve some form of physical labor, even though there are jobs that require only light work. Virtually every day labor job is unskilled in nature They often involve irregular schedules and minimal pay, about $35 a day net (Brett, pers. comm.). Also, the potential day laborer must deal with the occasional case of exploitation on the part of the employer. Benefits are not offered. As well, some employers are very willing to evade any sense of responsibility if a laborer is injured while working Day labor is not easy to acquire. Many cities have spots where potential day laborers wait for employers to drive by in their automobiles and announce available jobs. In Denver, such a spot exists in the downtown area across from one of the soup 31

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kitchens. Laborers are forced to compete with one another in proving their ability to do the work. This competition makes it difficult for many homeless individuals to maintain steady work, and that makes life more difficult when day labor is frequently the only option available to most homeless individuals. Public policy problems Not all problems for hawkers are strictly individual ones The U S economy has switched from being industrial to a computer-driven technology and service oriented one In the past, individuals who held a small amount of employable ski lis could find relevant and sustainable work in the factories. Within the past few decades, many of these jobs have disappeared as work has either been automated or transferred out of the country to areas where labor cost are much less Adding to this problem is the public perception that finding employment solutions is the full responsibility of the displaced individual. As Ronald Reagan stated, "the people have the genius and courage to solve their own problems" (Reagan 1968: 2; cited in Levitan and Johnson 1984: 16) Many conservatives hold steadfast to the belief in "pulling oneself up by the bootstraps." This perception was especially prevalent during the Reagan and Bush presidencies, as government spending on welfare and other social service programs was cut significantly. Significant progress has been made during the Clinton presidency, helped by low levels of inflation and unemployment throughout the mid 1990s (Meyer 1999: 113-121). Welfare reform bills such as the Personal Responsibility and Work 32

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Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (T ANF) program have put an emphasis on eliminating the need for welfare by providing job opportunities for poor and unemployed individuals. In addition, these programs have allowed the unemployed to retain some of their cash assistance while making the transition to the workforce To receive this continued assistance, recipients must participate in work-preparedness programs while making the transition from unemployed to employed. These governmental steps have been extremely beneficial for many people who were previously unemployed. Between 1994 and 1998, the number of people needing public assistance declined 37 percent. However as shown by this research, this progress is not reaching everyone. The informal economy So where does this leave many individuals who are unable to find relevant life-sustaining work? The formal job market is unreachable to many individuals in our society, whether they are disabled, homeless, or recent immigrants. As a result, many people are forced to rely upon the informal job market or underground economy. In addition, public assistance payments are typically not enough for an individual or family to meet its living needs, thereby forcing many individuals to use informal methods to obtain extra money without incurring taxes or the loss of welfare benefits due to reporting additional income (Sharff 1987: 19). The informal economy improvises to complement the formal economy as the latter changes through time (Leonard 1998: 24) Recently, the informal economy has 33

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expanded as competitiveness in the formal economy has forced companies to reduce costs to remain competitive. The informal economy was first categorized as self employment that interacted with the formal economy (Portes 1996: 148). It has been referred to as an "urban way" of doing things characterized by low entry barriers with regards to skill, employment history, and capital, unregulated and competitive markets, and low levels of productivity and earning potential. All ofthese characteristics are clearly evident in newspaper hawking. No skills or employment record are needed to begin hawking, competition between newspapers fuels the need for street corner sales, and a hawker cannot expect to earn more than a few dollars a day selling papers. Competition between the two newspapers in Denver is a key element in the proliferation of this form of informal labor. It directly mirrors the use of the informal economy by other firms. As businesses attempt to become more competitive in the emerging global market, less essential services are pooled out to independent contractors who then hire the lower skilled individuals, which limits their economic opportunities to ones that are characterized by vulnerable, irregular, and often exploitative work (Leonard 1998: 41-42, 68). Many large businesses sub-contract the production and marketing aspects of their businesses to small firms to reduce overhead costs (Portes 1996: 151). These smaller subcontracting firms will frequently hire workers off-the-books to reduce the liability of high labor costs. Hawkers are treated as independent sub-contractors hired to sell the newspaper on a day-to-day basis. In doing so, the paper pays them a set fee of$10. If this fee is calculated to the number of hours worked each day by a hawker, 34

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typically three to five hours, it falls below the minimum wage. In some cases, it is less than half the lowest standard required by law. Even with the irregularity of the work and the low financial reward, informal work has been offered as a moral boost for unemployed individuals Wenig argues that employment is regarded in high esteem by society, with success being defined as holding a job in the formal economy (Wenig 1990; cited in Leonard 1998: 68). Individuals who hold positions in the formal economy are seen as contributing to the good of the whole, whereas the unemployed are only seen as a drain upon the society. The unemployed are seen as useless and are partially at fault for their condition. Through the added informal income, the unemployed can reduce their need for society to assist them. However, while working in the informal economy will most likely give some boost to the previously unemployed, the irregularity of employment and financial rewards makes it unlikely that informal work will be a successful way for the unemployed to make a decent living. Thoughts on the Literature Work is a central part of one's identity It provides stability, purpose, methods of social interaction and inclusion, and a financial return for one's investment of energy. Losing one's work can have disastrous effects. As studies have shown, individuals often face mental and physical problems after losing work. The resulting emotional and financial instability can create difficulty for an individual who attempts to reenter the workforce. 35

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Each of the four factors mentioned previously presents a significant obstacle to finding meaningful and financially rewarding work. However, each factor does not have equal causal power in creating difficulty. Having a lack of skills is most likely the primary underlying factor behind the problems faced by many individuals who attempt to find work. As our economy continues its shift towards maintaining higher skilled work in the United States and lower skilled work in developing countries, the unskilled will face even fewer sustainable options in the future. When one has a greater array of skills and a higher level of education at his/her disposal, his/her working possibilities increase significantly. When one possesses these skills, disability and age will have a less negative effect upon one's desirability to employers. This is quite evident in the studies done with the disabled and with older workers. Skilled individuals usually found jobs that were in their desired field; unskilled individuals were often shut out of the workforce or forced to work in lower status or part-time jobs. Yet, homelessness may present an individual with the greatest overall difficulty. First, most homeless people have a lack of marketable skills. Second, they may often live with a disability or may be considered too old to be successful at many jobs. Third, they often have to deal with drug and/or alcohol dependence. Lastly, they have to negotiate these possible obstacles while constantly dealing with the environmental difficulties that accompany living on the street. They are easily excluded from permanent positions because oftheir appearance, their lack of relevant working connections, and not having a fixed place of residence As a result, working 36

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success is often an unattainable goal. Where does this leave individuals who have to live with one or more of these negative factors? It often leads them to part-time unskilled work or to complete unemployment. Low skill day-to-day jobs such as newspaper hawking or temporary construction or maintenance work are often the only avenues available to people who deal with social and physical handicaps. While these opportunities enable the unemployed to earn some money on a daily basis, the financial rewards rarely sustain an individual for more than one day. In addition, they are unable to help an individual maintain his health or other needs if an emergency should occur. Several investigators have mentioned the need for training in relevant skills for the unskilled, the disabled, the elderly, and the homeless This is a necessity if we expect to lower the overwhelming numbers of unemployed or underemployed individuals in this country. Public policy is turning an ear to these types of programs as the government attempts to reduce the amount of people on the welfare rolls. Continued support of these skill-enhancing programs needs to happen for the unemployed to enhance their lot in life. This study shows that hawking is a small step in the right direction, as it gives many individuals in Denver a viable option for earning money when full-time options are unavailable Secondly, it gives a hawker a standard working routine each day that will help them adjust back to the formal workplace. Third, a hawker will receive guaranteed earnings at the end of the day. Through the eyes of the hawkers, one can clearly see the importance of hawking for individuals who are struggling to survive in 37

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a rapidly changing economy. 38

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CHAPTER3 METHODOLOGY To fulfill the goals of this research, I interviewed 48 hawkers either while they were selling newspapers or waiting to be driven to their comers by the newspaper trucks. Each of the hawkers' names has been changed to maintain confidentiality. Coming into the research, I believed that most of the hawkers I would meet would be homeless men who were simply using the money for alcohol. I found a much different situation. While there is a significant number ofhomeless individuals selling papers, the majority of the people I interviewed had either a house, apartment, motel, or another place to sleep each night. Twenty-seven of the 48 individuals I interviewed fell under this category, while only 15 people stated that they were homeless A few of the former group had been homeless before they began hawking, and through the hawking program, they had been able to stabilize their lives and obtain housing. An overwhelming majority of the hawkers are male, comprising 41 of the 48 people I interviewed. At the same time, forty of the hawkers were Caucasian, four African-American, and four Hispanic. Ten of the hawkers identified themselves as having a disability. I was able to obtain the educational background of27 of the hawkers, and most members of this group had a high school degree. Three hawkers reported not finishing high school, and 10 had either a high school degree or had completed a General Equivalency Degree. Nine hawkers had completed high school and had some college experience, four had college degrees, and one had an advanced 39

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degree. To gamer this information from the hawkers, I used participant observation. Participant observation is seen as the cornerstone of cultural anthropology (Bernard 1995: 136). Also referred to as fieldwork, it can be described as an anthropologist's attempt "to learn and reach understanding through asking, doing, watching, testing, and experiencing for herself the same activities, rituals, rules and meanings as the subjects. Our subjects become the experts, the instructors, and we become the students" (Estroff 1981: 20; see also Koester 1995: 84). Participant observation takes the researcher further into the lives ofhis/her informants. Through its emphasis on participation and observation, this method allows the researcher to view naturalistically the informant's routine and devise questions that are relevant to the action occurring. Instead of entering the scene with preconceived questions that may or may not have relevance to the situation, the researcher enters with as clear a mental slate as humanly possible that can be filled as the minutes and hours go by. I entered this study with few preconceived conclusions about the hawkers, and the ones that I had often proved to be false. Ethnographic investigations are often short-term studies dealing with a specific question (Koester 1995: 84). As I began the study, I asked questions dealing with the factors leading to someone taking up hawking, as well as ones dealing with the day-to-day routine of a hawker. As I became more immersed in the lives of the hawkers, I was able to pinpoint more specific questions that could answer the general questions I had about why people turn to marginalized forms of work to earn a living. 40

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While ethnographic studies involve a multitude of data collection methods, this particular study primarily used semi-structured and unstructured qualitative interviews and observation. I chose to use unstructured interviews because of the nature of the meetings. Unstructured interviews can be defined as ones that are based on a clear plan of conversational direction but only have a minimum of control over a respondent's answers (Bernard 1995: 209). With the exception of the five interviews that were done on the first day, I approached each hawker without being introduced to him/her beforehand. For the most part, this decision regarding interviewing techniques was done based on personal comfort, as I felt more comfortable asking questions while having a conversation with a hawker instead of giving them a structured set of questions. In my experience as a quantitative interviewer, I have felt strained by the format of questioning and have noticed the discomfort visually displayed by respondents. People feel more comfortable in a give-and-take situation, as opposed to a strict question-answer format. I also felt that hawkers would be more receptive to interviews that did not involve strict questionnaires. These interviews were their chance to tell their story in a way that they saw fit, only to be guided along by me when necessary. Most hawkers were able to take a question and run with it, thereby answering many of my questions without a single prompt. In addition, after I approached many hawkers and asked them if they would be willing to be interviewed, several told me that they could only be interviewed if it was a quick interview that did not interrupt their selling routine. Most hawkers are constantly busy during their time on the comer, and 41

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answering a quantitative survey can disrupt a hawker's routine Filling out a survey was out of the question. Instead, I questioned them while we had a conversation, often walking with a hawker while s/he tried to sell papers. In addition, many hawker spots are located on small, cramped medians in between the two lanes of traffic. To minimize my presence on this limited space, I was forced to use a small notebook to take notes during interviews. I began the study by contacting the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News to gain permission to interview hawkers. Unfortunately, the Rocky Mountain News never returned my phone calls, and I did not begin interviewing their hawkers until the intensive interviewing period at the end of my fieldwork. The Denver Post immediately gave me the name and number of a crucial contact that is in charge of the hawking program for the paper. He gave me the time and place where the Post picks up its hawkers downtown, and I agreed to meet him there on the following Sunday morning. Early that Sunday morning at approximately 5:45a.m., I met the hawking coordinator and the hawkers at a parking lot next to the McDonald's restaurant on the corner of Colfax and Pennsylvania in the heart of the city. Darkness surrounded the city as I made my drive over, and there were only a few other people out on the streets on this cold morning. As I found the parking lot, I saw three moving trucks and 30 to 40 people milling around. Some people were talking to one another, but most stayed still and quiet, merely trying to stay warm in the cold. Several individuals were lying in the back ofthese moving trucks, using a bundle of papers as 42

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a pillow to sleep with while waiting for the trucks to depart I got out of my car and stood near one of the trucks, highly conspicuous in my clothing, as I was wearing a clean North Face jacket, an obvious contrast to the worn clothing that an overwhelming majority of the hawkers were wearing. While we waited for the hawking coordinator to arrive, I made small talk with one of the men standing next to me who turned out to be a first-time hawker. He and I were in a similar situation: newcomers to hawking who wondered about how it worked and how financially rewarding it was. However, he and I had a marked contrast: he was going to Jearn about hawking through first-hand work; I would learn about it by remaining an outsider peering into the life and work of the people I studied. The coordinator soon arrived, and people began moving to the trucks to be taken to their locations. I quickly introduced myself to him, and he began telling me about the hawking program as he got everything ready for the day. In the middle of one ofhis sentences, he suddenly noticed a disheveled looking man standing offto the side and began yelling at him in an intense fashion. Apparently, the man had taken a spot the day before and then left it soon after to go and get some liquor. After doing so, he did not return to his spot until soon before the truck came to pick him up in the afternoon. The coordinator had apparently driven by the spot a few times during the day and had not seen the man. A liquor store was nearby, which led the coordinator to his conclusion about the hawker's actions. The hawker denied his accusations, but the coordinator's forcefulness subdued his objections. He 43

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immediately told the hawker in no uncertain terms to leave the premises at once and not to ever try to hawk for the Post again. I was a bit taken aback at first by his harshness to the man, but after realizing that the coordinator is in the marketing business, I understood his tone. He later explained that having inebriated hawkers on street comers can give a bad image to the program, thereby hurting sales. After taking care of the problem, he then began rounding everyone up and introduced me in a general fashion to the hawkers present. Two boxes of doughnuts gave me the warm reception that I was hoping for, and the coordinator also informed them that I would not be paying them for their interviews. He also asked if anyone did not want to be interviewed, and noted the two individuals who were not interested in talking with me. With this introduction taken care of, he got everyone into the trucks, ct....> sed the door of his truck, and got ready to leave. After he left, I waited around a bit and talked with a few of the hawkers who were left waiting for another truck to come and pick them up. One of the ones waiting was heavily inebriated, and after I asked him why he was hawking, he gave me the response that every anthropologist fears upon beginning research on a topic: "Whaddya think I do it for? That's a stupid question!" As he fell down after haranguing me, I replied that I didn't know and was simply trying to find out reasons why people are hawking. After getting back up :from his drunken fall, he answered that he was hawking to obtain money for alcohol. Soon afterwards, he climbed up into the back of another truck and went off to sell papers Bewildered, I walked away and began interviewing hawkers at their spots. 44

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For these intetviews, I approached each hawker, identified myself and my intentions and then asked them if they wished to be intetviewed. I gave them my name and told them that I was a student at the University of Colorado at Denver doing a study on newspaper hawking. I told them that I was trying to find out the reasons why people turn to hawking to make money. This process worked efficiently and effectively. I wanted to make sure that each hawker understood that I was not an employee of the newspapers, which may have kept him/her from giving me a complete picture of hawking. In addition, I wanted to assure the hawkers that their participation was voluntary and either consenting or refusing to participate in the study would not cause them any harm. Most hawkers were extremely polite and candid during the intetviews. After I introduced myself, they then put me at ease with their easygoing demeanor. I only had four people who refused to be interviewed, a number much lower than I expected. Three of the four refused by stating that they were working and did not have time for me to ask them questions The other did not want to be intetviewed without signing a waiver of confidentiality, which I did not have, as I used verbal consent to obtain these interviews. After acquiring an approval to begin the interview, I usually began by asking how long the person had been hawking and the length of time they had been at that particular spot. I then asked them how hawking worked out for them. Typically, they would respond with a general answer that often included the show-up fees that they were paid each day for hawking. Afterwards, I would question them about how they found out about hawking and what work they had done before hawking. If they 45

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informed me that they were currently working, I would have them elaborate more on their current situation and how hawking helped them financially. I also inquired about their housing status if they did not refer to their living situation during the previous questioning. I spent a great deal of time asking them about how they sold newspapers and what methods seemed to be beneficial in boosting sales and earning tips. Most of the hawkers showed me the tips they had learned that help them sell papers. I also watched many of them sell for a few minutes while interviewing them. There were several times during interviews where the hawkers had their backs to traffic while talking to me. When this happened, I tried to keep my eye on traffic to see if any potential buyers might pass by. One of my greatest fears during the interviews was that I would keep the hawkers from selling papers during our conversations. In many cases, I feel that I may have, as many hawkers concentrated on talking with me instead of keeping their eyes on traffic. Fortunately, I was able to point out a few customers to hawkers while I interviewed them. At other times, I simply walked with them and took notes while they walked up and down the medians, even repeatedly going into oncoming traffic with one hawker who was a bit more daring than the others. The interviews took from five minutes to an hour and a half, with most interviews lasting from between 15 to 30 minutes. When possible, I asked the hawkers about their length of time in Denver and about their place of upbringing. I used this first to try to find out their connections to the area, to gauge their ties to the 46

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population and to the workforce. Second, I used this questioning to try to move the conversation over to their educational backgrounds. Unfortunately, due to time constraints on many of the interviews or simply because the conversation never reached this topic, I only was able to gamer information on the educational background on 27 of the 48 hawkers I interviewed The aforementioned lack of data regarding educational levels highlights one the shortcomings of using open-ended questioning to elicit information in one-time interviews. My data on education levels is not as complete as I would like it to be. Using a more structured form of questioning would have eliminated these problems, as I would have followed a line of questioning that would have given me the answers I needed. In addition, because of the transient nature of the hawking spots, where individuals typically stay at one spot for a day to a month, follow-up interviews were difficult at best. I interviewed four different hawkers at one spot at the intersection of Alameda and Colorado within the span of a month. Each of the hawkers informed me that they would try to stay at that spot for a lengthy time, but I would often drive by that location on other days and see a new person selling each time. With this problem in mind, I was forced to use the information that I could collect from these loose interviews. However, I feel that overall my technique was a beneficial one, as it allowed me to gain a quick, easy rapport with each hawker. I tried to make each hawker comfortable with my presence and using a naturally flowing conversation appeared to work in my favor. In addition, it allowed them the ability to ask me questions about 47

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my research and to take their time to fully inform me about their opinions regarding hawking and other topics. I came into the research wanting to record the experiences of hawkers in Denver, and using unstructured interviews successfully gave me what I was looking for. At first, I was able to learn all of the aspects ofbeing a hawker, as well as the life histories of each hawker. Later in the research, I was able to tailor each interview to fit the situation. For example, ifl needed to talk with a hawker about how a lack of skills affected his/her life, I could do so. Conversely, I was able to talk with another about how his business skills helped him as a hawker. I also wanted to determine how hawkers valued their work, and how they felt they were valued by the community at large. The long dialogues allowed me to do so successfully. In addition, I was able to use the natural conversation to report some of my findings to later interviewees to get their feedback on what I was seeing. During the latter parts of the research, a primary goal was to back up the emerging conclusions. I talked with several hawkers about the presence of alcoholics on medians, and whether or not they were out on the streets in large numbers. In addition, I was able to back up my initial findings on how the drop in home delivery prices have killed the sales of hawkers in recent times, as well as concluding that there was little competition between hawkers selling different papers on the same corner. I also was able to pinpoint the selling techniques that work the best by giving examples to the later hawkers to gamer their opinions. Overall, the method gave me the ability to structure the interview around the responses I received from each hawker. Also, it was effective in giving me an evocative picture of the life and 48

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working conditions of each hawker. 49

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CHAPTER4 FINDINGS Factors Behind Hawking Hawkers have been an increasing presence at comers and intersections since 1992. The increase occurred after the Rocky Mountain News slashed its Sunday price to 25 cents and hired hundreds of hawkers to sell the papers in public (Keating 1995: G-01). The two papers have hawkers sell their papers because ofthe competition that exists between the two companies. The Circulation Department manager in charge of hawker sales for the Denver Post told me that competition for circulation is the only reason why both of the papers use hawkers. Increased circulation means more advertising money for a newspaper. The papers make no direct money through hawker sales, because the hawkers get to keep all money earned each day. Thus, the advertising money helps eliminate the financial losses that the newspapers incur through funding the hawking programs. However, it would still appear that there is little reason for the hawking program, as there are boxes located throughout the metro-Denver area where customers can buy papers without the guilty feeling of needing to pay extra through tips. Many of the hawkers I spoke with could not afford for the papers to discontinue using the program. Twenty-six of the 48 hawkers I interviewed use hawking as their only source of employment. Ten of those hawkers are homeless. Three of the others are using hawking to complement their retirement pensions. Four 50

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hawkers have full-time jobs, consisting of academic research, hotel management, printing, and construction. Most of the part-time jobs are either construction or other relatively low-skilled jobs. The temporary jobs are usually construction or other labor-oriented work. Fifteen of the hawkers I talked with were homeless. Most of the homeless individuals I spoke to had been homeless for a few years. For many of the homeless, this was their sole source of income, giving them enough for food and a few toiletries Others used hawking to complement their earnings from work obtained through Ready Man and other temporary agencies in Denver. Many of the homeless hawkers were hawking simply because they could not find other work. Other hawkers were selling papers because they were unable to work any other job Most ofthis latter group were physically disabled I interviewed 10 individuals who were disabled, and those disabilities ranged from severe leg injuries to breathing disorders and brain injuries. These injuries occurred either in a workplace accident, a fight, public accidents, or were a bodily condition that affected them in a significant way The majority of these disabled were unable to work any other job because of the physical strain that most jobs put upon the body. Others were able to work, but only for short periods of time before needing rest. This clearly excludes them from most jobs, and this exclusion is heightened when you combine their disability with a lack of employable skills. Many of the disabled individuals held physically demanding jobs before being injured These options are no longer available to them. 51

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One hawker, Mickey, explained it this way: "I injured my knee in a fight and was crippled. [Hawking newspapers] is the only work that someone who is crippled can do. I'd try to get other jobs, but when they would see my knee and how I walk, they'd tell me they couldn't hire me. I used to do heavy labor and now I can't go up stairs or lift anymore." Phil is another hawker who suffers from the same problem. He sells newspapers because of major injuries sustained in two separate accidents. First, he broke several bones in his back when a ladder fell on him at a warehouse. He was then able to find a job processing titles, but the business went under. Then he was hit by a car, which broke his leg in several places. The bones never healed correctly. Another hawker, Sarah, is unable to find permanent work because she broke her foot in an accident. "I jumped off a loading dock and didn't navigate the height. I snapped my foot in half in five places. It is one of the hardest fractures to heal, and I didn't have any insurance." She applied for disability but was denied with the response that her injury was not severe enough. However, hawking on the weekends is even hard for her, as the lengthy time out on the comer wears out her foot. A fourth hawker, Billy, hawks because of several back injuries. He said, "I worked 17 years in the trucking industry. Because of back operations, I can't do anything anymore. I drove a truck for a living After the third back operation, they said, 'No more.' I had disc injuries that were all work-related. Now, I can't lift anything over 20 lb. So, there's not a lot I can do I can get disability, but I haven't filed. Now, I'm just doing what I can do to survive. Hawking is good for me. It 52

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wasn't designed for everybody, but it was for me because of my disabilities." Hawking gives each of these disabled individuals a chance to earn money without laborious work. There is very little lifting involved, and there are several spots that do not require one to walk up and down a median. S/he may simply stand or sit in one location and have customers come up to him/her to buy a paper. One concentration of these disabled-friendly spots is in the downtown area I spoke with seven hawkers in the downtown area who suffered from a physical disability. Each of them preferred to work downtown because one does not have to move very much to sell papers All they have to do is stand or sit and display the newspapers They can even lean against buildings for support if they get tired. Other spots, such as the one that Phil had, are located in the front of grocery stores Phil sold to the side of the store's entrance where a picnic table was located. Thus, he was able to sit at the table throughout the day, only getting up to take papers to customers who drove by. This gave his leg ample time to rest throughout the day. Unfortunately, most of these spots that are good for disabled individuals are not lucrative spots. The downtown spots do not have many customers, as most downtown workers either have their paper delivered to their homes or to the office. Those individuals who do buy do not frequently tip. Most ofthe downtown hawkers average fewer than 10 sales a day, and few of these sales have tips added on. These hawkers are forced to rely upon the business travelers staying in downtown hotels such as the Adam's Mark. Hawkers stationed closer to the Adam's Mark tend to do better in tips, thanks to the business travelers who are frequently using expense 53

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accounts while in town and are willing to forgo their change more often than local businesspeople. Others hawk papers because they are unable to find work due to a lack of employable skills. A large majority of the hawkers were either currently or previously working in unskilled or low-skilled jobs. Many of the unemployed hawkers had either left or had been terminated from labor-oriented work. Examples of these forms of work include janitor, construction, landscaping, housewife, and dishwasher. Many hawkers had gone from one job to another without picking up any marketable skills. As the American economy turns from an industrial to a service and computer-oriented one, many individuals such as these hawkers have been left behind. Many hawkers are unable to learn skills that could help them return to the workforce, either because of personal unwillingness to retrain themselves or because of financial difficulties. Two women I talked to had been housewives all oftheir lives and needed to start earning money. With no skills, they turned to hawking. One, Kristin, was on welfare for a few years, but left the welfare rolls after starting hawking. "I've applied around and they aren't taking me. I've applied at the 7-11 (convenience store), drug stores, and liquor stores. I need more experience." She has even lost her identification card. She hopes to return to school to learn some skills, but she has no money and no real plan of action. Billy told me, "I'm 50 years old, and I don't have any computer knowledge. I've been offered computer classes, but I don't take them. I can't sit all the time." One unemployed hawker, Domingo, has been unemployed for half a year. 54

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Before hawking, he worked as a laborer, dishwasher, and a utilities worker throughout Denver and the Front Range. He said, "I did the traditional job hunting, and I came across employers who are like, 'We'll call you.' There are numerous roadblocks. If we're having such a good economic deal, why aren't some of these employers calling?" Another hawker, Wayne, has extreme difficulties finding work because ofhis lack of education. He previously worked at the Tri-County Health Department. "I got laid off because I didn't have enough education to stay at Tri-County. I only went through grade school. It prevents me from getting a job. Computers? I don't know about that." Other hawkers are doing this work simply because their automobiles broke down, and they do not have any other means of efficient transportation. Two hawkers I talked to began hawking after their automobiles broke down. They were both dependent upon those automobiles for their livelihoods. One was a pizza delivery driver, the other an ironworker who had to travel to Parker each day for work. Many others tum to hawking because they are unable to get around town to the various work sites, especially those working in the construction business. Domingo complained that he could not do any construction work because he was unable to reach any ofthe construction sites in the suburban areas of Denver. The bus system was not efficient enough to get him to work on time, and he had no automobile By the time he reached many of the sites, he was too late to join the crew working that day. Hawking works for him because he is able to quickly take the bus from his 55

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home to downtown to sell. On the weekends, the papers take him to and from the spot where he sells. A final factor leading to people hawking is age Three hawkers were doing the work to augment their monthly retirement earnings. Jerry came to Denver from Florida after taking early retirement from Martin Marietta. After "sitting around" for six months, he found out about hawking and gave it a try. It works perfectly for him, as he is able to only work for three to four hours a day and then relaxes at home during the remainder of the day. It also keeps him from spending his retirement earnings too quickly. Another couple, Donna and Keith, also use hawking to complement their retirement earnings. She also received an early retirement offer after working as an inspector for a ceramics company here in Denver. Keith receives Social Security each month. These two payments are not enough to make their ends meet, so they have been hawking for the past 14 years. This helps them "get through," and it is much preferable to finding temporary work each day. A third hawker, Kelly, worked as a waitress throughout her life. Now in her sixties, she is no longer able to withstand the long, strenuous hours that the job entails. "It's really hard work. At least six days a week, you're on your feet constantly I can't take that kind of strain at my age." Hawking is not that easy for her, as she is at a busy intersection where she has to walk up and down the median throughout the shift, but the shorter hours work better for her. And, as she stated, "It keeps food on the table 56

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As witnessed by the stories of these hawkers, people tum to hawking for a variety of reasons, both structural and individual. This multitude of factors leading to hawking highlights the interplay of structural and individual forces in determining the life and working options of an individual. Many ofthese hawkers are struggling to survive because they live in a technologically based society that does not reward manual skills. Instead, our society rewards those individuals who have the skills needed to adapt to a rapidly changing technological world. Most of these hawkers do not have these skills, thus relegating them to the bottom rung of the employment ladder. In addition, our society favors individuals who have attained a high level of education. Many of these hawkers either have completed high school or dropped out before doing so. Having this low amount of education forces many people into a life oflow-skilled jobs with little chance for advancement. However, many of these hawkers would like to enroll in a job-skills program to improve their employability, but the opportunities have not been there for them As shown by Donna, Keith, and Kelly, age plays a significant part in leading people to hawking. They each felt that they were unemployable because of their age and the declining condition of their bodies. However, more individual factors also play a part in turning these individuals into hawkers. For many hawkers, a simple case of bad luck has led them to their current situation. Several ofthese hawkers were injured in a single accident from which they were never able to properly recover If they had not been in the "wrong place at the wrong time," they might presently be a contributing part of the formal 57

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economy. Others have chosen hawking simply out of their own volition. Hawking provides them with a low-stress job that helps them make ends meet. When the three to four hours of selling papers are over each morning, they are done working for the day and can spend the remainder of the day doing as they please. For many of the hawkers, hawking is merely a means to survive while trying to get one's life back in order and plan a new employment direction. I talked with one hawker, Todd, who planned to return to school to learn the baking trade. He was waiting on a Pell Grant to come through before he could return to school. Hawking had helped him get stabilized before making this big step. Another hawker, J.B., was hawking to make extra money while he waited for the Summer Olympics in Australia to come along. Once this event came close, he planned on going to Australia to create and sell Olympics merchandise. Several other hawkers were undecided about their futures, but were simply using hawking to survive, earning whatever they could in the meantime. What is important about this last group is that many of these undecided hawkers felt that they were the only ones who could improve their condition, not any governmental or private organizations. They firmly believed in the American ideal ofbringing oneself up by the bootstrap. One homeless hawker, Marvin, was adamant about his need to get his life back in order. He had been homeless for three years after having a stable maintenance job, and had been hawking for a year-and-a-half. He told me, "I'm going to get it back together. It's not hard to find a job. You have to get back on your feet. You have to do it by yourself. Abide by the rules .... It's up to me. The 58

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world don't owe me shit. I took that fall because I wanted to .... Once you get that feeling where you don't care, you lose everything. It's up to me. I'm not going to die in this situation. You have to pick yourself up. Have that drive instead ofturning to the bottle." Hawking gives him a temporary method of earning money while he figures things out. "It pays $10 a day. You don't have to rob anybody. You can buy a smoke; you have a little money. You can stay out oftrouble." He planned on leaving town soon after the day of our interview to look for work and begin his life again in the southern United States. Other hawkers had no intentions of ever quitting hawking. It gives them enough money to survive on each day. They are able to use that money for some of their personal needs and complement their earnings with the free meals given by churches and other social organizations and the sleeping facilities provided by the local shelters. Most of the individuals who planned to continue hawking for a long period of time were single homeless men who did not have any family for which to provide. Because they only had to take care of themselves, hawking enabled hem to satisfy their daily needs. A few others had another concern to take care of: finding the next drink of alcohol. Alcoholism and Hawking Alcoholism is a significant problem for hawkers, both for those who are addicted and those who are not. Only three individuals identified themselves as 59

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frequent drinkers. In what was the most surprising finding of the research, I only interviewed one hawker who had consumed alcohol that day and was visibly inebriated. I came into the research thinking that a majority of the hawkers would be using the money to maintain their habits. As I continued the research, most hawkers expressed a concern about drunks out-on the streets selling papers. However, I only had contact with the one drunk the morning that I began doing interviews. The other two individuals drank on their own time, not while on the job. Several others identified themselves as former drinkers, and this drinking had contributed to their current state. However, a majority of the hawkers were visibly concerned about drunken hawkers out on the comers. Many hawkers feel that a significant portion of the hawkers out there selling papers were drinking on the job. The drinkers are out there, and their behavior hurts both themselves and the other hawkers out selling papers. In the summer of 1998, with the temperature reaching 96 degrees, one hawker drank so much on the job that he passed out and died from pneumonia and alcohol poisoning at his spot. Several hawkers mentioned that the alcoholics are a nuisance to the others because they give the group a bad image. They feel that these drunks are ruining the hard work that they were putting in while hawking. Hawking is a public relations job, and one visibly inebriated hawker can taint the legitimate image that most hawkers are trying to portray Thus, this hawker can significantly hurt the sales of the many hawkers around him/her without knowing about the damage being done One hawker, Donna, told me: "We (she and her husband Keith) won't drink 60

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while we are selling. It's too dangerous. Fortunately, (the papers) have been getting rid of them. Ifl'm a person in a car and I smell a person reeking of alcohol, I wouldn't buy from them. It's a way to lose customers. It hurts all of us. [Many people] think all of the hawkers are like that." In addition, alcoholics can wreak havoc while on the trucks by verbally abusing the other hawkers. When the alcoholics become loud and obnoxious, fights often break out on the truck. For all of these reasons, people who are visibly inebriated are not allowed to sell newspapers. However, one morning I talked to one hawker who was inebriated to the point of falling over several times during the few minutes we talked. When the truck came to take him to his spot, he stumbled over, hopped in, and went away, even though the driver and other hawkers knew his condition. To the papers' credit though, this was the only hawker I saw who was inebriated or smelled like alcohol during my interviews and observations. Many hawkers believe that the newspapers are eliminating the alcoholics from the program, and my research does not indicate otherwise. Hawkers and Beggars -a Clear Difference Many hawkers clearly differentiate themselves from other individuals who are on the medians with cardboard signs begging for spare change from drivers and pedestrians. Several hawkers told me about how these beggars were ruining the images of hawkers because they use the same locations that hawkers use, albeit at different times of the day. Hawkers normally use the medians in the morning. 61

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Beggars use the medians in the afternoon and evening The hawkers feared that many drivers and pedestrians would equate hawking with begging, and thereby would not buy a paper as often. Miles told me about how people would drive by him and yell out; "Get a job!" while he hawked thinking that he was begging for change when he was actually trying to earn money legitimately He said, "I don't like being treated as a second or third-class citizen. People yell out, 'Get a job!'. A lot of people think that this is all we do We're just trying to make an honest living. There are people out there from all backgrounds, but we are lumped into one categorythugsbecause of the way we look." Donna put it this way : "This is a legal job. Some people who fly signs (beg with a cardboard sign) have an apartment. I feel like they are lying to people. At least we can say, we're making honest money. We don't make much, but we are not begging." Billy stated, "You don't know anybody They don't know you. They may say that you're panhandling and stealing. The first thing that comes out of the mouths of people is,' Get a job.' This isn't a 'job job' per say, but you get up everyday at five o'clock. I tell them, 'Wouldn't you rather buy a paper from me than for me to ask you for money?" Sarah told me "What is a real job? Work is work. You're trying to make a living. Survivingthat's work in itself. At least I'm not out there stealing, out killing, hijacking cars. I'm just trying to make an honest living. I'm working for reputable companies such as the Rocky Mountain News." 62

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Another hawker, Brent, noted that he actually does better when people are near him holding signs. People driving by will tell him, "At least you're trying." A sixth hawker, Bruce, did not care for beggars in the least. He said, "At least we're trying to make a living. People carrying signs make more money than we do. This is a lot better than carrying a sign. You disgrace yourself with a sign." Day to day lives of hawkers The day of a hawker typically begins at about 5:30 a.m., either when s/he arrives at a designated location to be picked up by one of the delivery trucks, or when s/he arrives at his/her designated spot either by foot, car, or bus. For homeless people staying in shelters, this pick-up time works perfectly for their schedules, as many of the shelters release their occupants at 5 a.m. When I first began interviewing hawkers, the pick-up spot for the Denver Post was at a McDonald's restaurant parking lot on the corner of Colfax and Pennsylvania A venue. Several hawkers told me later that the pick-up location had changed to 14th and Grant. Apparently, the McDonald's did not like the refuse that was left behind after the hawkers left each morning Both of these locations are conveniently located near the shelters and a good portion ofthe low-income motels and apartments located on Colfax. Upon arriving at the pick-up location, most hawkers climb into the back of their designated trucks. The trucks were standard moving trucks typically used to move furniture and other large loads. Most trucks had between I 0 to 20 people in the back compartment. The trucks normally have papers stacked in the back, and many 63

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hawkers use these bundles of papers as a pillow to rest on or as a grip to hold onto while the truck is moving However, these bundles are not safe objects to use as grips, so most hawkers use the side rails of the truck to hold onto when it is in motion. This brings up a significant safety problem with this method of transport These trucks do not have any seats or even seat belts or secure devices for one to properly hold onto in the rear compartment. There also are no windows for the hawkers to use to watch the action on the street and prepare for an accident before it happens. Instead, they are unknowing occupants of a vehicle who must rely upon the skills of the driver to keep them safe. This danger becomes even greater when you factor in the number of disabled individuals who hawk papers. The chance for a serious injury is always present for the latter group when one factors in the restricted ability for quick movement. However, from talking to several hawkers about the danger involved in riding in the back of a moving truck, many of them are not too concerned. First, most of them have faith in the drivers Several mentioned that the drivers drive slowly enough to prevent any sudden starts and stops. Others mentioned that there is little traffic at six in the morning, so there weren't too many opportunities for accidents. The Rocky Mountain News uses vans for transporting its hawkers, which seems like a much safer and more humane way of transporting people. However, a couple hawkers stated that they dislike the vans because they break down too much. They would prefer to be in the truck because of its dependability. Arriving at one's spot is the first priority Safety and dignity come afterward. 64

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Hawkers tend to work for a particular driver, and each driver has a particular section of town that is regarded as his/her territory. However, it is important to note the driver does not receive any portion of the money that a hawker earns. Instead, the paper pays the drivers according to how well the hawkers sell in their territories. As a result, drivers and hawkers are dependent upon one another to make their living. Hawkers must rely upon the drivers to give them financially rewarding spots. Drivers are dependent upon hawkers to sell a large quantity of papers. Thus, a driver must have the acumen to be able to find a good location for a hawker to sell papers. When the working conditions are favorable, mapy experienced hawkers have a sense of / loyalty to a driver. Several hawkers told me that they were very happy working for their current driver, and that they felt like their driver took good care of them. Drivers tend to take care of their more dependable hawkers by giving them more lucrative locations. Hawkers who work a regular schedule and are rarely absent tend to receive more profitable spots. As they continue to work, they are able to obtain better locations, which can give them the chance to earn better money. The drivers drop off hawkers at each spot in their area. When they are dropped off, a hawker will take a few newspaper bundles with him/her, depending on the location and the day of the week, and begin selling. Typically on the weekdays, a hawker will have one to three bundles of papers, each of which has 10 papers. On the weekends, a hawker will have three to six bundles. The number of bundles a hawker takes mainly depends on how financially successful s/he is at a spot over time and how long the hawker will be out selling papers. 65

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During the weekdays, hawkers typically sell from 6 a.m. until sometime between 8:30 and 10 a.m., depending on the newspaper they are selling and their location. Most hawkers in the downtown area stop selling between 8:30 and 9 a.m., as the foot traffic along the 16th Street pedestrian mall dies down when white-collar professionals begin their daily work. Hawkers normally either walk back to the pickup spot at 14th and Grant or wait until a driver comes by to receive their daily show-up fee. The papers pay the hawkers a show-up fee for selling the newspapers: $10 for a weekday and $15 ifthey work both weekend days. If a hawker is forced to sell in a new area or in Boulder, s/he receives $25. This increase makes up for the lower sales that hawkers typically have in those two areas. The hawkers also are able to keep all of the money made from each sale, which starts at 25 cents for a weekday paper and 50 cents for the Sunday edition. Each paper has different pick-up times during the weekdays. The Denver Post hawkers located throughout the city normally stop around 9 a.m. when the trucks come and pick them up. The Rocky Mountain News hawkers located throughout the city stay are usually picked up around 10 a.m. On the weekends, hawkers sell from 6 a.m. until sometime between 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays are normally the longest days, as they are the most successful selling days for a hawker. When the trucks return to pick up the hawkers throughout the city, each hawker signs in with the driver, notes how many sales s/he had during the day, loads the remaining papers back into the truck, and then gets into the back of the truck to be taken back to 14th and Grant. Downtown hawkers walk back to that location to be 66

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signed in and paid They leave the remaining papers at their spots to be picked up later that morning When all of the hawkers have been picked up and brought back to this location, the drivers then pay each hawker his/her show-up fee. They then are free to leave and do as they please. While there is some camaraderie on the comer, most hawkers go their separate ways when the job is finished. Most hawkers return to their homes, or go and get something to eat. If it is a weekday, many hawkers go to their other jobs, or to the temporary agencies to find work for that day. Other hawkers head straight for the liquor stores or to the bars on Colfax to begin their daily ritual ofheavy drinking. Out on the Comer With the bundle of papers ready to go, the hawker is now prepared to begin selling for the day. Most hawking spots are located on raised medians at intersections on high-traffic streets in the metro Denver area. These medians give a hawker a long strip of area to use to market the paper. Typically, an experienced hawker will walk up and down the median, timing his/her motions to the rotation of the traffic light. A successful hawker can time his/her walk to pass by each car soon after it has stopped and the driver begins to look around at his/her surroundings. S/he also will make sure to glance at each coming car to see if anyone motions for him/her to come over and sell a paper. One hawker, Miles, stated, "Walking the median is better (for sales). Otherwise, people don't see you. They are looking ahead. When you walk by, they 67

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see you." Another hawker, Bobby, gave me some insight about being out on the medians He said, "You have to figure out the lights. I take four papers with me at a time, because I can sell four papers here. You ve got to measure your distance. I can sell four papers in 60 feet." Most other hawkers stick with carrying one paper at a time However, there are several other techniques that hawkers use to try to sell more papers while they are out on the corner. One of the primary methods is to display any inserts that are put inside the paper. Examples of these are advertising specials and sports-related posters. Bobby displays the Foley's department store ads because his weekday and weekend spots are near the Park Meadows shopping mall in southern Denver Another hawker, Phil, stationed himself outside a Foley's store in Boulder on a weekend day and used their advertisements to sell papers that day The method was a success, as he sold his entire allotment of papers by the early afternoon. Miles also gave me a personal list of successful strategies that help him increase his tips and ward off any possible thievery on the part of customers. First, never give anyone a paper or money before receiving your payment. One hawker had $40 taken from him by a woman who asked for change from the hawker before paying him. Other hawkers have been robbed by young teens in search of a thrill. Second, keep your money in your pocket. People in the turn lanes are often in a hurry, and they may be willing to forgo their change if a light turns green. Offer to give money back, but always go into your pocket to get the money If they see you 68

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struggle to get the money out, they may tell you to just keep the change. When they do demand their change, give them back nickels and dimes. People prefer to receive quarters, and they may opt to give you the rest of the money instead of taking dimes and nickels. Never give out pennies. Outside forces can also lead to financial rewards for hawkers. Success on the part of the local sports teams can also lead to substantial benefits for hawkers. When the city's professional football team, the Denver Broncos, won its league championship in two consecutive years, hawkers had a bonanza of sales throughout the city's subsequent celebrations Each paper wisely printed colorful poster-sized inserts celebrating the Broncos' success, and fans, wanting to show their undying support for the team, bought them in droves. During the second year, throughout the Broncos' home playoff games leading up to the championship game, hawkers were stationed outside Mile High Stadium with papers and inserts celebrating a win for the team. These papers often held little news-related content within their pages, and what remained was often merely window dressing stuck next to advertisements However, they sold briskly, as many people wanted mementos to keep at home. During the days immediately after the two championship wins, numerous hawkers were out selling papers that had inserts celebrating the Broncos' success. Phil folded a photo of the Broncos' quarterback John Elway over the front of the newspaper and sold paper after paper by doing this. He told me, "That's how you sell 70-80 papers." Several hawkers told me that these days were the most successful they ever had, as people, giddy with excitement over the team's first and second championship, 69

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were handing them I 0 and 20-dollar bills for a paper that only cost 25 cents. Many hawkers reported having earnings in the hundreds. Two reported earning more than $1000 on the day after the Super Bowl. This can be contrasted with a typical day for many hawkers, which is normally between $10-$40. One couple, Cowboy and Mary, told me that after the championship game and the parade, "people are hanging $100, $50, $20 out of their windows. They don't care." The newspapers were prepared as well for the subsequent victory parades, as they dispatched hawkers and thousands of papers to the celebrations. At the second championship parade, there were hawkers for each block, and business was brisk. I witnessed one hawker sell out an allotment of20-30 papers within 10 minutes of setting up a spot on the parade route People simply wanted the paper for the inserts inside. Several customers asked this hawker if they could merely buy the insert without receiving the paper, but the hawker denied their request by telling them that no one would buy the remaining papers because their inserts were gone, and he was not going to be stuck with them. Later that afternoon, as I walked around the downtown area, a brisk wind made it seem as though the city was having a ticker-tape parade, as single pages of newsprint were flying about in the breeze, long discarded by their brief owners. Meanwhile, not a single insert was left on the ground, as they were being used as props for the ensuing rally being held for the team. On weekends, the television guide and the grocery coupons are the main selling points that hawkers use. These two items are so important in selling papers 70

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that the newspapers have changed from selling Saturday and early-edition Sunday papers on Saturday to just selling the latter. Several hawkers told me that no one buys the Saturday paper. They simply want the Sunday paper for the coupons and the television guide. Phil told me that when he displays a Sunday paper, he makes sure to prop the television guide in a way that displays the top of its front cover, thereby displaying the part that says "TV Guide". When he opens his bundles of newspapers, he checks each paper to make sure that they have both the television guide and the coupons. If the paper lacks either, he puts it aside and does not sell it. It is the loading dockworkers' responsibility to place the correct inserts inside the paper. However, their mistakes penalize the hawker, who is seen as being responsible for the condition of the papers that s/he sells. Some time ago, when Phil had just begun hawking, he sold a paper that did not have a television guide to a woman. After she went back to her car and checked the paper for its contents, she noticed that the television guide was missing. This sent her into a fit of rage, as she ran back to where Phil was standing, threw the paper at him, and verbally abused him while demanding another paper. While I observed Phil selling papers, several customers asked him if the Sunday paper he was selling had the television guide and the coupons inside. Another successful selling strategy is simply having a pleasant demeanor and greeting drivers in a pleasant fashion. Several hawkers told me that smiling at a customer and saying "Good morning." works best. Others wave hello at drivers as they go by. One hawker, Ron, told me that he waves at everyone who passes by, 71

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especially the attractive women. "I wait for the light to change and wave at everyone. Ifl wave, 90 percent of the people wave back. They are very friendly However, Jerry, the other hawker sharing the median with Ron, told me later that Ron doesn't take hawking seriously and spends too much time waving at people and not selling papers. While Jerry waves as well to the oncoming traffic, he works the median a bit harder than Ron and also has the luck of offering the better selling paper in the area, the Rocky Mountain News. Having a good disposition puts a customer at ease, especially one that would not typically roll down his/her window to interact with a stranger. Phil told me, "I hope that my smiling face will help folks out with their day I try to cheer folks up, to let them know that somebody cares. You've got to keep a positive attitude. I try to stay bright even though I feel lousy." However, one can go too far in trying to pick up sales. Many hawkers stated that they did not like others who tried to muscle sales by getting in customers' faces. They associate much of this behavior with the alcoholics who get belligerent while on the spot after a full day of drinking. These hawkers feel that the paper will sell itself, and that by yelling at passersby, one will intimidate people and keep them from ever buying a paper in the future. They believe that by keeping calm eye contact with drivers, a hawker can be successful with sales I witnessed one downtown hawker who would yell out, "Rocky Mountain News! at each passerby, and she did not have much luck selling, even though she had a preferable spot next to one of the Light Rail stations. From the looks of many people walking by, her efforts had a detrimental 72

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effect. Most hawkers learn these tricks of the trade from more experienced hawkers. These more experienced hawkers do not see the newcomers as competition, so they are willing to help out other people. Phil learned how to display the Foley's ads and other inserts from Bobby when he first began selling. Others learn by simply watching the hawkers around them. At the end of my data collection, I interviewed a hawker on his first day. He told me that others had given him advice on how to sell, and I filled in the gaps in his knowledge with what I had learned through my research. Success and Failure at Hawking Location and length of stay at a spot are the most crucial parts of whether or not a hawker can be successful. Hawkers tend to prefer locations that have left-tum lanes and lengthy traffic signal rotations. This gives a hawker a prolonged period of time to walk up and down the median, which allows for greater visibility by more automobile drivers and give him/her a greater chance to visually pinpoint customers. For example, at the intersection of Alameda and Colorado Boulevard, the hawker who sells for the westbound traffic has a span of25 seconds from when the westbound Alameda traffic stops to when the traffic turning left onto Colorado can begin moving. The traffic signal rotation involves a left tum signal for the traffic turning from Colorado onto Alameda, and then a general green light for the Colorado traffic. Many of the lucrative spots have left-tum signals for all four directions of traffic, and these turn signals are significant in that they allow a hawker a few more 73

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seconds of seJling time to each group of waiting drivers The location in the city also affects how successful a hawker can be. Typically, the Denver Post sells better in the southern suburbs, while the Rocky Mountain News sells better in the downtown and metro area. The differences in sales at a location can be astounding. Jerry, who sells the Rocky Mountain News, averages 40-45 papers a day. Ron, who shares the same spot as Jerry and sells the Denver Post, averages 2-5 papers a day. Their spot is near central Denver, which may explain the discrepancy. In addition, several hawkers told me that being in a location where Caucasian white-collar professionals are the primary drivers is extremely beneficial to selling. It is not a coincidence that most of the weekday spots where hawkers are stationed are either downtown, on the major routes to and from the downtown area, or near the Cherry Creek neighborhood where many offices and upscale shopping areas are located. Most weekend locations are in areas where a majority of the traffic is the same group, with a particular emphasis in the southern part ofDenver around the Park Meadows shopping mall and its surrounding retail areas. On the weekends, these areas are packed full of people going to shop for clothes and other items In my observations, I noticed the same trend. Most customers were middle to upper class Caucasians. One hawker in a spot on Alameda and Santa Fe, which had a mixture of Caucasian, Hispanic, and African-American drivers in its westbound traffic, told me that the spot was not a good one, because Hispanic drivers typically don't buy papers. 74

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When they do, he told me that they rarely tip. Another hawker at the same location, an African-American, told me that she would do better in the Montbello, Park Hill, and Colorado/1-25 areas because they are "the black side" of town. She also stated that Hispanic drivers are not frequent customers. What is also noteworthy is that on the northbound lane of traffic at that same intersection, two hawkers working that traffic both reported that business was very good for them. They were getting drivers coming from the southern part ofDenver who were mostly white professionals on their way to work in downtown. As a result, these two hawkers had both been at their location for one year and five-six months respectively. The first hawker I interviewed on the westbound lane told me that this was his first day at that location, and that he would never return there again. The second told me that she had been there for two weeks and wanted to find another spot that might be more lucrative. This dilemma highlights the importance of staying at one comer for a lengthy period of time, in what is called "building up a comer." Building a comer is the central way for a hawker to be successful and make a respectable amount of money. What it entails is simply showing up at the same hawking spot for several weeks or months. By doing this, the hawker can become visible to the regular traffic that takes a route each day. Most hawkers believe that it takes at least two months to fully build a comer. The drivers and customers become familiar with the hawker and begin to expect that hawker to be at that location each day. Several hawkers told me that by being there every day, they are able to attract more customers. As customers begin buying papers from them, the hawkers start to accumulate a regular base that they can 75

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count on every day. As the base grows, typically the tips begin to increase. For example, many regular customers start paying a dollar for each 25-cent paper they buy each day. In addition, people also will barter for papers. Hawkers reported receiving clothing, food, and coffee for papers. During the Christmas season, many hawkers received gifts of clothes and extra money from their regular customers. As time goes by, the hawkers get to know their customers and are able to make a transaction in the way that a particular customer prefers. Jerry, who averages close to $400 a week, told it to me this way, "This spot (Platte River and Mississippi) is real good for me. I've been here for a year-and-a half, and everyone knows me. The longer you're at a spot, the better you'll do. For me, this is a business. Half of the folks doing this are homeless, and they are happy with $10. I've got Christmas cards, stuff for kids [to give away]. Unfortunately, not many [hawkers] realize how much you can make, so they don't take it seriously." Jerry has been hawking for two-and-a-half years, doing it six days a week, including the two weekend days. He has also been at a different weekend spot on Sixth Avenue for two years and now averages about $250-$260 a weekend at that location. Perhaps some of Jerry's success stems from the fact that he has degrees in economics and business and worked at Martin Marietta for 20 years before taking early retirement and moving to Denver. He is able to see how the business aspects of the job can help a hawker be successful. These aspects are very similar to the expectations given to the general workforce: show up for work on a regular basis and stay focused on the task at hand during your time on the job. Market your product by 76

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staying visible to the customers that come by. Have a pleasant attitude and treat others with kindness and respect. However, most hawkers do not share Jerry's success, and the primary factor behind this is the fact that they are not able to stay at a spot for a lengthy duration. An overwhelming majority of the hawkers I interviewed had been at that particular spot for a month or less. As a result, they were often struggling for customers and were not making much money. When a hawker misses a day, other hawkers, termed floaters, will pick up that spot for the day. Two of the hawkers I interviewed were floaters. If a hawker misses more than a day or two in a row at his spot, his/her spot is given to another hawker, and there is little chance for the original hawker to retain the spot in the future. This loss can be significant, especially if a hawker has been at that one spot for a lengthy period of time All of the time and energy put into building the corner is gone, and the hawker will have to go through the same process again at a new location. Undoubtedly, this means having to get adjusted to making less money while the next corner is built up. Hawking Presence and Safety in Denver As stated before, the two papers have hawkers sell their papers because of the competition that exists between the two companies. Increased circulation means more advertising money for a newspaper The papers make no direct money through hawker sales, because the hawkers get to keep all money they earn through their work. Thus, the advertising money helps eliminate the financial losses that the 77

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newspapers incur through funding the hawking programs However, it would still appear that there is little reason for the hawking program, as there are boxes located throughout the metro-Denver area where customers can buy papers. Not everyone on the newspaper staff would like to see the hawking program continue. Ryan McKibben, a former publisher of the Denver Post, said it this way; "We would probably support going away from hawkers on two grounds. The vendors there create an unsightly scene and cause congestion on many comers. We believe that hawkers are a bad idea at busy intersections" (Keating 1995: G-01). This brings up another key issue for hawkers: safety. Medians at busy intersections are not the safest place for an individual to spend lengthy periods of time. Phil told me that he has almost been hit twice by a car while hawking. The first time was due to icy conditions. The second was a result of a driver not paying full attention to what she was doing Miles also reported being hit by a car while hawking. Even with the danger involved, hawkers feel that they have the right to be out there on the medians trying to make whatever money they can. Most hawkers do not worry about the danger present with the quickly moving traffic. As I spent more time out on the medians, I became accustomed to the traffic and was able to ignore the possible accidents that could occur. However, a few communities in the area have outlawed the presence of hawkers on the street comers and intersections. Aurora and Littleton have passed laws banning hawkers from selling newspapers or other items on city streets (Keating 1995: G-01). The hawking coordinator told me that these laws were unfair and they 78

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keep the hawkers from making the money they need for rent and food. At the end of 1999, after observing two people panhandling on a median, a Denver city councilman proposed to ban panhandlers, flower peddlers, and hawkers from city streets (Greene 1999: B-01). Fortunately for the hawkers, the proposal was quickly defeated by the city council after a barrage of criticism from both the papers and homeless advocates. The circulation manager said that the Post would probably keep the hawkers working for some time. He personally likes having hawkers out selling papers. He told me: "[Hawking's] a good thing The homeless get jobs. The hawkers make money We get circulation. Most folks that sell papers can't hold other jobs, and this lets them get money for food and for cigarettes." Even though there is a great deal of competition between the two papers, hawkers do not see themselves as part of this battle. While on the medians, there is a sense of camaraderie between the competing hawkers. Many hawkers see the competition as something that does not affect their sales Experienced hawkers often give selling tips to ones that are just starting, regardless of which paper either is selling. One hawker, Vince, told me, "Competition is between the papers, not with me. We're both (motioning to the other hawker) trying to make us some money." His spot partner, Dave, said, "We don't see it as competition. If(customers) are going to buy the Post, they'll buy the Post. Same with the Rocky Mountain News." Perhaps the fact that many hawkers tend to move from paper to paper tends to dull the competitive nature of the newspaper business. Denver is far from being alone in having hawkers on the streets. I spoke with 79

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one hawker who had previous experience in the business before coming to Denver. Mike sold papers for seven years in Reno, Nevada before coming to Denver 10 years ago. He returned to hawking in Denver last summer. He told me that there was no comparison between the two cities Mike's hawking experience in Reno was much preferable than his current situation, as Reno only had one paper serving the population. In addition, the price of home delivery was not nearly as inexpensive as it is here in Denver. As a result, he would average about 150 papers a weekday and between 200 to 300 on the weekend. He now averages less than 10 sales on the weekdays and does "pretty decent" at his weekend spot on Interstate 25 and County Line Road in southern Denver In Reno, his customers were primarily casino workers and local residents who come downtown for breakfast. He could work four days and make approximately $400 a week selling papers. The only downside was that hawkers had to pay for a portion of each paper they sold, whereas in Denver everything is provided to them for free. In Reno, a hawker would pay 25 cents for a weekday paper that retails for 50 cents. A Sunday paper, which sells for $1.50, costs a hawker 50 cents Paying for the paper did not bother Mike, because he was able to sell a large number of papers each day. Mike and other hawkers are in a real quandary at the moment, because hawking sales have significantly decreased over the past two years Several hawkers mentioned that a significant decrease in home delivery prices was eliminating many of the sales they counted on each day. The decrease began when the Rocky Mountain News began offering a yearlong six-day home delivery package for $3.12. This 80

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package excludes the Saturday paper They also offer a six-day package that excludes the Tuesday paper for $18.95. The Denver Post counters these offers with a six-day yearlong package for $22.98. Normal seven-day home delivery rates for both papers are $124, with a half-price offer given to new subscribers. As a result, many customers have switched from buying single copies from hawkers to getting the paper delivered to them at home. At those extremely reasonable prices, who could blame them? Many hawkers have had $175-$250 weekends tum into $25-$30 weekends as a result of the rise in subscriptions However, Phil does not worry too much about the loss of sales to subscriptions He told me, "If people decide to subscribe, that' s fine I'll pick up another customer to replace them." How People Find Out About Hawking There are three main ways that potential hawkers find out about hawking. The first of these is through close connections, such as family and friends. Donna and Keith found out about hawking through their daughter, who had been hawking for some time before the two began fourteen years ago Other hawkers began after friends informed them about it. Several of the unemployed hawkers found out about it after fr iends saw that they were struggling to find new work after being laid off. Others, primarily the homeless, discover it through acquaintances, with which they may cross paths with during the day. Many homeless hawkers are informed about the work while staying at the shelters. Undoubtedly, the proximity of the morning shelter release time and the hawker pickup time make the work attractive to homeless 81

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individuals who wish to earn legitimate money each day. Several other hawkers began hawking after meeting the hawking coordinator in the streets. Many told me that he came up to them and asked them if they wanted to make some money that day by selling newspapers. They took him up on his offer and have continued to this day. One of the selling points of hawking is the guaranteed daily income. Hawkers are paid six days of the week, with Saturday's earnings being given on Sunday ifa hawker works both days. However, if a hawker does not work both weekend days, s/he is not given a show-up fee for working only one day. Additionally, if a hawker sells both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, termed double-selling, s/he does not receive a show-up fee from either paper. The reasoning behind this is because double-sellers normally make enough money to not require the fee, and each paper wants to discourage hawkers from selling the other paper. However, a few hawkers sell both papers because of the extra income. They are guaranteed a sale no matter which paper a customer wants. I frequently saw customers refuse to buy the competing paper when their first choice was not available at a spot. Another selling point of hawking is the fact that the money from hawking is not recorded, thus making it virtually untaxable. The Post treats the hawkers as independent contractors hired daily to sell the paper, thereby not affiliating them in any way with the paper. They only sign in at the end of each day to account for their sales, which helps the paper determine their total circulation numbers. Because they are considered self-employed, the hawkers do not fill out tax forms with the papers. Thus, their undocumented earnings are virtually untraceable by the government, 82

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which in tum gives the hawkers more money on which to survive 83

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CHAPTERS CONCLUDING THOUGHTS Hawking clearly highlights many ofthe issues contained within the anthropology of work. Work is central to personal identity, and hawkers identify themselves by the work that they do. Many told me that they gain a sense of dignity simply by going out and trying to earn a little money each day. They feel that hawking is a valid form ofwork. Unfortunately, hawking is distinctly marginalized by the society as a whole, through low earnings, verbal insults, and the stereotypes held of many hawkers as alcoholic vagrants trying to beg for money. Thus, hawkers are forced to overcome social exclusion. However, when viewed as a whole, hawking is extremely beneficial to the participating individuals and to society as a whole. First, it gives the homeless in Denver an outlet for earning legitimate money without resorting to begging. Granted, the earnings that most hawkers make are meager, but if a hawker is unable to sell one paper during his/her shift, s/he is guaranteed $10 each day, enough to at least eat twice during the day. Second, hawking gives underemployed and unemployed unskilled workers extra money to help make ends meet. With the seasonal variability of construction work, and the overall variability of temporary work, hawking is a guaranteed source of income for individuals who are unable to maintain employment throughout the year due to a lack of employable skills. In addition, it helps complement the low earnings that most unskilled workers receive through other jobs. Third, hawking provides the physically disabled with light work that can be 84

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accomplished with little physical effort. Many hawking spots are tailored to meet the needs of the disabled, as they do not require much movement on the part of the hawker. Fourth, the elderly and other individuals living on retirement pensions can use the income gained from hawking to help complement their monthly payments. In all four cases, the cash payment of the sales and show-up fee make tracing the earnings for tax purposes virtually impossible, thereby helping the hawkers make ends meet in an easier fashion. Barring a rash of traffic accidents involving hawkers, it seems very likely that the program will continue for some time as the two rival newspapers continue to furiously compete against one another. The only other obstacle that could hamper the hawking program is local governmental efforts to eliminate public vending on city streets. However, recent attempts to curb hawking in the city ofDenver have proven futile, and a reversal in political opinion could probably only happen if people were hurt while out on the comer. Even as the local economy continues to thrive, hawking and other informal jobs are still being used by a portion of the population to earn money to take care of their needs. Because of the variability of unskilled work and the frailty of the human body, hawking provides a necessary working environment that can be used by individuals who cannot find regular, steady work in the formal economy. Thus, the continuance of these programs and other informal economic strategies is a necessity for these individuals. However, it is also a necessity for the community, as it provides daily income 85

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for the homeless and other poor individuals. This income could possibly alleviate some individuals' need for panhandling and even petty crime to obtain money for survival. Because the need for hawking is fueled by competition for sales and advertising, financial assistance for the hawkers is privately funded through the advertising revenues obtained by the Post and the Rocky Mountain News. This also alleviates some of the poor's reliance upon public assistance to meet daily needs. Instead, they are able to earn money through "honest work" and reap the benefits, however meager they may be. Are the avenues of the homeless, the unskilled, and the elderly narrowed down to merely hawking? No, but many people in these conditions do not know of many other options, and many are unprepared for the ones that are open to them. For the most part, skill deficiencies are the primary obstacle facing hawkers looking for other work With the global economy transferring labor to the emerging Asian, Eastern European, and Latin and South American countries, the demand for unskilled and low-skilled workers in this country has decreased, and this downward trend is certain to continue as more corporations transfer their labor abroad. More work for the unskilled needs to be available. Numerous individuals told me that they planned on hawking until the program was discontinued. They felt no need to return to the realm of formal employment, and they were earning enough money to meet their needs. Most of these long-term hawkers were homeless, and they felt that they were able to get by through hawking and the services provided by the missions and the government. A few told me that 86

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hawking was "the best thing that ever happened to me." It provides them with a guaranteed income each day that is enough to take care of their food and other necessities. For all of these reasons, hawking is a beneficial part of life in Denver, Colorado. It is able to help those who would otherwise be dependent upon social services to earn legitimate money on a consistent basis. For many, it helps fill in the void between having a formal job and being absolutely destitute. However, hawking still is seen as a marginalized form of work. Hawkers do not earn very much money, and several complained ofbeing verbally abused by passersby. Others had the more unfortunate luck of being robbed because of their vulnerability out on the medians. The question is why is hawking given a marginalized status in the employment spectrum? It primarily is because ofthe lack of skills and education needed to do the work. Anyone can start the first day with the basic knowledge needed to be a hawker. There are a few skills that one can pick up from other hawkers but for the most part, everything that is needed to be successful should already be known when one first hits the comer. This society values education and skills, and rewards those individuals who possess both through high status and good earnings. Hawking requires neither, and thus it is placed at the bottom of the employment hierarchy. Yet even though hawking is not a valued form of work, it is successful for many individuals as an earning strategy. They are able to earn enough money on which to survive. They value the work they do, which counters the mainstream view of hawking as an unskilled form ofwork with little social value. Thus, many hawkers 87

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are fighting to build status to a job that is marginalized within the mainstream society. They see their work as honest and valid. So why do they choose a marginalized form of work when there are theoretically many legitimate jobs to be had in the local economy? Primarily because of a bodily dysfunction, no physical address, or a lack of marketable skills or knowledge about the job-hunting process. Each of these individual problems can put a job applicant in a significant hole even before the job-hunting process even begins. More importantly, these factors can crucially weaken one's emotional strength, thereby making obtaining work a much more treacherous ordeal. Marginalized work becomes a more attractive option as disappointments and struggles mount. Others choose this type of work because they do not fit into the standard form of work, and they do not have any need to do so. They are not interested in working a full-time job, much less a part-time one. As long as they can make enough through hawking to get by to the end of the day, this informal work is all they need. However, through the statements made by the hawkers, we can see the structural factors weighing in on their job choice. Skill and education will continue to be valued in this society, and thus low-skilled jobs such as hawking will be relegated to the lower end of the employment spectrum. In addition, capitalism cannot exist without some members of the population being unemployed. Unemployment and underemployment are unfortunate results of the economic system that has made this society prosperous. Low levels of unemployment and high levels of overall economic prosperity cause inflation rates to rise, thereby upsetting the financial 88

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community (Yates 1994: 69). This unrest in the financial community often causes governmental officials to cut social services and raising taxes, thereby increasing the rolls ofthe unemployed and underemployed (Yates 1994: 69-70). Thus, spending will decrease, forcing employers to cut their payrolls as fewer purchases of their products are made. As a result, many individuals are forced to rely upon part-time low-skilled work such as hawking to survive after losing a job. The American work ethic is still evident at the bottom levels of the working world. Most of these hawkers work diligently during their time on the comer. They value the work they do, and have picked up and used skills that make the job more profitable. Hawking can be considered low-skilled work, as it requires little formal training and a small amount of skills needed to be successful the ability to show up day after day on a consistent basis, constant walking up and down medians, and displaying the paper and its inside contents in a prominent way. It is a simple public relations job, and a good hard-working appearance goes a long way. It significantly contributes to a hawker's ability to build a comer. However, hawking is not a long-term solution for these men and women. Additional efforts need to be made to make available programs that can teach these individuals skills that will help them land good-paying permanent work. Hawkers want to work. As one of them told me, never been a guy to stand there and hold a sign and get something for nothing." The opportunities are just not there for them to find sustainable employment in the formal economy. Plus, the problems of disability, age, and homelessness put many of these hawkers at a great disadvantage 89

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when faced against other applicants. For right now, hawking is a temporary crutch on which to stand until more help becomes available. 90

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CHAPTER6 POSTSCRIPT On May 11, 2000, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News announced that they had agreed to combine their business operations and end the competition for circulation and advertising, thereby ending a century ofbattle over readership in the city (Booth 2000: A1). This agreement was reached due to continued financial difficulty on the part of the Rocky Mountain News, which had operating losses of $123 million since 1990. The two will enter into a joint operating agreement (JOA) that will allow both papers to publish editions on the weekdays. However, there only will be one paper published on the weekend days. The Rocky Mountain News will publish the Saturday paper, while the Denver Post will be in charge of publishing the Sunday papers. The Denver Post is the clear winner in the JOA, as it has editorial control over the Sunday edition, the cornerstone of any newspaper business. Unfortunately, the losers in this joint agreement could be the hawkers. Having two editions on the weekdays will continue the need for hawkers in the metro area. However, only having one edition published on the weekends could reduce the number of hawkers selling papers on these two days significantly. Saturday and Sunday are the "money days" for hawkers because of increased time on the corner and the rapid jump in sales through coupons and the TV Guide in the Sunday edition. The papers may only need half the number of hawkers to sell newspapers on Saturday and Sunday because of 91

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the ensuing lack of competition between the two dailies. One of the hawkers, Jerry, shares this perception. "[The JOA] will cut down on the number of hawkers. At a lot ofweekend spots, there are two hawkers This is definitely going to cost them. My boss talked to me about the JOA. He said that it will take a while to happen, and it will hurt the truck drivers as well, because they are independent contractors It will cut the drivers in half" Jerry did not seem overly concerned about himself because ofhis current earnings. Right now, he double sells both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post on weekends, which means that he does not have to compete with another hawker for sales. He felt that home delivery prices would increase after the JOA was accepted, a belief publicly shared by the chairman of the Denver Post (Booth 2000: Al ) For several years, delivery prices have been extremely low for both papers, and Jerry felt that they would return to higher and fairer prices (approximately $160/year in his opinion) in the coming year This could lead to an increase in hawker sales that could help them regain the losses they have suffered over the past few years. Jerry lost 30 percent of his sales due to the drop in home delivery prices. However, the single weekend edition could doom the efforts of many of the hawkers before these increases could gradually take effect. Having fewer people selling on the sales-heavy weekends will have immediate effect on many hawkers It could keep several hawkers from making enough money to survive, putting their lives in greater limbo As a result, the future for hawkers could be an uncertain and 92

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difficult one 93

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