Shanna Tippen was another hourly worker at the bottom of the nation’s economy,
looking forward to a 25-cent bump in the Arkansas minimum wage that
would make it easier for her to buy diapers for her grandson. When I wrote about her in The Post last month, she said the minimum wage hike would bring her a bit of financial relief, but it wouldn’t lift her above the poverty line.
called me the other day to say she didn’t get to enjoy the 25-cent hike
for long. After the story came out, she says she was fired from her job
for talking to the Post.
Tippen says she was fired by her boss, hotel manager Herry Patel. Earlier that day, Patel had called The Post to express frustration that
he had been quoted giving his opinion about the minimum wage hike. (He
objected to it.)
It was soon after, Tippen says, that Patel found her in the lobby and fired her.
said I was stupid and dumb for talking to [The Post],” Tippen said. “He
cussed me and asked me why you wrote the article. I said, ‘Because he’s
a reporter; that’s what he does.’ He said it was wrong for me to talk
Patel introduced Tippen to me. During a trip to Pine Bluff, Ark., in mid-January, I went to numerous businesses across town and found Patel
in the hotel lobby and introduced myself. There, I interviewed him for
several minutes. Patel then suggested I speak with Tippen, who was
cleaning up the continental breakfast bar. I interviewed her during her
work shift, during a slow afternoon as she manned the front desk.
days later, after I’d spent additional time with Tippen, Patel called
me and threatened to sue if an article was published. Tippen, though,
felt it was important to tell her story; she said many people shared her
experience earning the minimum, and she had nothing negative to say
about her employer.
A man who sounded like Patel, reached recently at the Days Inn, declined to comment in several separate phone calls. On one call, the man said
he’d never met Herry Patel and did not know who he was. On another call,
he threatened to call the police if “you keep bothering us.”
Initially, Tippen was uncertain whether she wanted to publicly share the story of her firing, but she decided to
because she feels increasingly desperate. She lived
paycheck-to-paycheck during her two-plus years at the Days Inn, and now,
she and her family are living off a recent tax refund check that won’t
last past March. Tippen says she’s looking for another job but hasn’t
found one yet.
“As of now, I’m looking for any kind of job at all,” she said. “Flipping burgers. Cleaning. Anything. It doesn’t matter.”