We've heard the numbers, the endless lists of thousands of workers losing their jobs. Like everyone, I've been following our tanking economy, but it didn't really hit home until I got an email from my 57 year old sister. Unable to talk on the phone (even her email sobbed), she informed me she lost her job. Not like the last times when she was laid off and recalled in a few months. This was a real, clean out your locker, job loss with no hope of a recall.
She's younger than me, but only by a year. She's never had the best job in the world, but always had a job or at least was expecting a recall from a lay-off. She dropped out of high school thinking the usual kid thing that school was a waste and there was a job and life waiting for her. Back then you could get away with that kind of thinking and those actions. She did well. Factory work was easy to get, paid a decent wage, and required no skills or education.
Soon she had a car and an apartment. Money to spend. Nice clothes. At age 18 she was living large. I was scraping by putting myself through the local university by continuing to live with my parents and commuting from home. My life then existed between attending classes, doing classwork, writing papers, and working as many hours as possible at my part time nursing home job so I could afford the next semester and all the expensive textbooks.
Her life looked good to me, but after graduation with a BS in Nursing, I got my first real job. Not much pay because women professionals were (and still are) paid less than the professions of men, but enough to make 4 years of hard work for a college education worthwhile. After 30 years of nursing, I retired early on a decent pension that, thankfully, includes health insurance.
She worked a variety of factory jobs. Moving from one factory to another as they closed and moved to a cheaper labor market. For 10 years she's been at the same company, fabricating plastics, like toilet seats. Business ups and downs have been marked by layoffs and reduced work weeks, but she's always either had a job or knew she would be called back from a layoff.
Not now. She and about a dozen others were told to clean out their lockers. They were told they were not coming back. The remaining workers know that there are more staff reductions coming. She's 57 without a high school diploma or GED and jobs are hard to get even for younger workers with high school educations. She's a long way from Social Security and worked for companies that never offered pensions.
On top of that, she's also losing her health insurance, which is a job benefit. Yes, if she can afford the complete monthly premiums on a small, time-limited unemployment check (nobody can), she can keep her insurance under COBRA for another 18 months, but what then?
She's out there with so many like her. High school drop out rates remain high and are increasing leaving even younger workers without the miminum qualification for most jobs. Poor decisions in the past coupled with a gradual, but dramatic change in the job market (loss of manufacturing jobs) have left generations of Americans without the education and skills necessary to stay employed even in a good economy. In a failing economy, they have no chance. They have no hope.
She checked out getting a GED in the past. The cost was exhorbitant and required 2 years of her time despite the fact that she dropped out in her senior year of high school. Why should it be so expensive in money and time to get something that is minimally required for a decent job?
Since the Reagan era the safety net that once existed to help out has been deconstructed and then destroyed. Bush, Inc., LLC ushered in the Ownership Society (You're On Your Own - well defined as such in a speech by Barack Obama). While the rich and entitled have their off shore accounts and golden parachutes, those who end up in dire straits have nothing. Even the Wall Street thieves used bailout money to support their addiction to multi million dollar bonuses with nothing more than a tongue lashing as punishment for the abuse of tax dollars.
Republican Thugs continue to rant and rave against giving stimulus money to those who are in real need. Like Scrooge, they ignore and insult the poor and unemployed. They actively work against the best interests of this country and its citizens and seem to want to create a society of the Uber Rich with everyone else in the peasant class.
It is in our collective interests that everyone have work or, at least, help to live a decent life. We should also ensure that every one of our children have a basic high school education and make getting a GED cheap and easy for those who make the mistake of dropping out. An opportunity to make a living, contribute to the betterment of one's community, raise a family, and live with hope that tomorrow will be better is not too much to ask.
I'm in hope that the Obama administration has something in mind to help all those losing their jobs other than merely extending unemployment benefits by 13 weeks. Many of those losing their jobs were just barely hanging on in the first place. Of all of us, they are the most in need of help and hope. And we understand that if they don't make it, we don't make it either.
Rec List? Holy cow. First time, but I've only written 3 diaries.
The big problem is that older workers have a hard time with a job loss in any economy and we are living in a time when people are looking at their children wondering what kind of future they will have.
Thanks for all the support and positive thoughts.
Thanks for all the good wishes and information. I have read and appreciated all the comments. While it's unlikely she'll find someone willing to hire an employee who won't work more than 8 to 10 years, if the economy turns around her chances will be better. She is hoping that she may get called back to her job as an inspector at the plastics factory, but knows that is a slim possibility.
Until then, we need a safety net for all those losing their jobs. Something to hang on to while they wait, and hope, for better times and better opportunity. They are not just statistics.