A darker future for "Tier 2" workers

Original Reporting | By Eric Kroh |

Trying to make do

For now, Waun said he was trying to work his way through college because he could pay his tuition. He said he feared that if he got knocked down to a lower wage he would “be stuck working for General Motors for the rest of [his] life” because he wouldn’t be able to afford an education to widen his job prospects.

In addition to college tuition, Waun said the higher wage allowed him to afford a reliable car, whereas many Tier 2 workers he knows had to drive used foreign cars. He said he was also able to go on vacation every once in a while. Tier 2 workers, meanwhile, feel left out, Waun said.

“All the Tier 1 are talking about their trip to Disneyland or their hiking trip in Colorado, and [the Tier 2 workers are] just wondering how they’re going to be able to put enough gas in the car to get to work on Monday morning,” Waun said.

Barrick said clients of hers who used to drive to northern Michigan on vacation to take advantage of the state’s beaches are now, given the cost of gas, eliminating even those trips to cut back on expenses.

Waun, who is unmarried and has no children, said he hoped to start a family some day. But he worried that he wouldn’t be able to provide his children with the kind of life that his parents were able to afford. Waun said he was a fourth-generation auto worker, and that while his family wasn’t wealthy while he was growing up, he remembered “the family cottage up north, barbecues during the summer, snowmobiling during the winter.” As a teenager he had a computer, a full closet of clothes, and healthy meals to eat.

At $14 an hour, Waun worried, “I wouldn’t be able to provide the standard of living that I think children deserve.”

How much house can workers on different tiers buy in Lake Orion?

The house directly below, on the market for $86,000, is in the price range that a Tier 2 worker might afford (if able to get a mortgage).

BadHouse1.jpg BadHouse2.jpg


The photos below are of a house on the market for $189,900, the range range affordable for a Tier 1 worker. The “Tier 1” house is larger, is advertised as newly remodeled…and is directly on the lake.

GoodHouse1.jpg GoodHouse2.jpg


Photo credits: Patty Pascoe of Real Living John Burt Realty, Lake Orion, Michigan (top two photos); Jerry Khami of Hamilton Realty Group, Roseville, Michigan (bottom two photos).


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