American Workers Struggling to Make Ends Meet in Today's Economy

From fast food workers to shuttle bus drivers, many Americans aren't able to afford housing or pay the bills on current wages.
9:21 | 01/14/17

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Transcript for American Workers Struggling to Make Ends Meet in Today's Economy
We're about to introduce you to Americans desperate for you to know they exist. People all across the country working in jobs once considered middle class but now living far below a middle class lifestyle. How did this dramatic income inequality happen on such a wide scale? And what can be done about it? Here's Diane sawyer. ??? Songs that made the hit parade ??? Return with us to the sights and sounds of Archie bunker's neighborhood. 30 years ago, the television symbol of living in the American working class. Call Rudy in California. On the phone? No, Edith. Open up the window and yell. Here's the house today. The blue one on the right. Kathy moved into Archie's neighborhood 40 years ago. Her husband was a truck driver. She showed Houston is buying these houses now. As he banker, he's a CEO. Kids today that are professionals with advanced degrees can't even afford to live here. She said in 1978 her house cost almost $60,000. Today it's valued at $800,000. Those homes were built for middle class Americans. They were built for teachers, for firefighters, they were built for nurses. And those types of people can't afford those homes anymore. The soaring house prices aren't just in New York. It is happening in job markets across the country. I love this town. I love this community. I'm sorry I didn't expect to get emotional. You are looking at the new face of displacement. She is one of the people caught in the vicious choice between affording where you live and affording your life. I think I grew up middle class. My parents have four children. They own their home. I didn't imagine I would still be without any idea of how I would get into a house at this point. Her husband is a micro biologist at a lab. They rent a small two bedroom apartment in California. College savings for the girls? Nothing. Add to it the 25% like in rent in her town of Burlingame, California. Her neighborhood being squeezed. Across the city we meet Terrance wise who believes you build a life on hard work. He leaves home at 5:30 and returns 16 hours later. He records the beginning of his day. Just like everybody in America. Heading to work. Trying to take care of my family. Good morning. When we meet him he has two jobs. A fast food franchises. One at burger king. A second at McDonald's. It takes him eight buses to commute to and from his work. Just three more buses to go. There is a big change in the fast food worker. In 1980 the majority of fast food workers were teenagers. Today, 75% of these workers are in their 20s or older. A third of them with children. The American people, some may say it is something you didn't do right. They think you should have stayed in school. Or you should have did this. Look. I'm working. I have a family. That's where we're at in this high of right now. This wasn't the life that Terrance had planned. He said he was a smart kid in high school, dreaming of the university of South Carolina. He had to help with family bills. I've been at burger king 11 years now. $8 an hour after 11 years of service. After all those buses, all those hours no, vacation time no, benefits. You go into McDonald's or any restaurant and you notice smiling faces. When he goes home, he goes home to little food of his own no, lights, no water. It is hard to see that through smiling face. He points out his hours can be reduced so his income isn't guaranteed. One of the hardest things, watching the leftover food at the end of the shift. What do they do with it? Where I work the food is thrown away. Two years ago a worker at another store posted this. This is the food that we have to though away. When we meet Terrance, he has already become a passionate advocate at the center of the national movement called fight for 15. Arguing for an I crease in the federal minimum wage from $7.25. I know what $15 an hour, if it started tomorrow, I would only have to work one job. Then I would have an opportunity to go to work and then to go school. The top companies in the fast food industry made a combined profits of $6.6 billion in 2015. One study shows 52% of all their employees getting some form of public assistance. Is this a way taxpayers are subsidizing the industry? Nobody wants to do that. I want to go in and pull out my cash and buy my food and have insurance through my job. Again he says, a little more makes so much difference. I haven't been to the movies since the matrix. I don't know if you know how old that movie is. This is our stop. There hassal been income inequality in America. As we said, today it is more extreme. Take silicon valley, the high-tech companies with the golden names. Where employees get free food. Any kind as much as they want. Free dry cleaning, gyms on site. And right there all around them, thousands of other people also working very hard in the shadows. There amid all the wealth we heard about the drivers of employee shuttle buses. When we began our report we found drivers sleeping in the parking lot. 35 to 40 bus drivers are here. People are sleeping here in their cars. It is just awful when you park inside and you have drivers covering their cars with blankets and towels. These drivers are called contract employees. Working for companies who provide them to the high-tech industry. When we met them, they had few benefits, little vacation, no paid holidays. Just turn the ignition switch on. At that time one of the drivers ferrying apple employees to their campus was Scott peebles. He was trying to save money for a rental apartment nearby but at the time he was living in his car using an inflatable mattress. If people would know this, the corporations they work for, they would be aghast that their employees living in a car or van. I just close this door and say good night. We saw the parallel lives. Near luxury houses, trailers parked in the streets. Service employees living so differently from the people they serve. And all over the country there are business leaders saying there are times on bring new ideas to American workers and their wages. And this is a man named mark Bertolini. He is the son of an auto worker, successful CEO of a goliath company, etna health care. He says it has to begin with corporate leaders who want to learn the lives of their workers. Where do they live? What are their lives like? It took six months to get the data. When I did, I was embarrassed. He said he was surprised to discover that some of his full time employees were paid so little they had to go on public stance. How can we let this happen? Here we are a major fortune company. So they raised salaries to at least $16 an hour. They're helping workers pay down college debts and he vowed not to pass any of the costs on to the etna consumer. 18% believes corporations are good. 18%. How much lower do we need to go before we figure out this doesn't work? So instead of waiting for it to go away, why don't we step forward with some courage and convictions to make it better. A new capitalism. Yeah. Why shouldn't we be the ones who say there's a new way. And he says if there are CEOs in America who don't know where to stargts just give him a call. A lot has changed since Diane reported from that parking lot in silicon valley. The bus drivers voted to unionize and there was publicity around the low wages. She said all contract employees should have higher Sal prison and 15 days of paid time off. Apple and Google followed her lead and the drivers we met in the parking lot say it made a huge difference. And you remember Scott peebles, the man living in his car? He is now renting an apartment.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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