“We had to sleep on the floor in overcrowded apartments,” said Allen, while paying their boss rent that sometimes exceeded the low wages and limited hours he provided them. “After getting a paycheck of zero dollars and zero cents” due to rent being deducted, said Allen, “we would still be getting texts from his wife saying that we still have balance of x amount” in remaining rent unpaid. When workers began organizing, he said, “we were threatened in writing from our boss.”
Company towns, like Pullman, Chicago, at least (sometimes) had a progressive (if paternalistic) sense of improving the workers’ lives. Today’s story isn’t quite the full company town experience, but it shares the essential problem: giving entirely too much leverage over workers to the company, with the firm serving as both employer and landlord. The result – as it is here – was a captive and exploited workforce.