Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 6 No. 3 | Fall 1984 (Seattle) /// Issue of 24 /// Master# 57 of 73

where — if the union doesn’t cooperate. One resident, a laid-off Simpson Timber logger, now doing odd jobs in Raymond, pointed out, “It used to be that when kids graduated from high school they could get a job at the lumber mill, if they wanted one. These days, just about all of them leave town when they graduate.” THE MYTH OF HIGH TECH While the state’s major industries are on the downward slide, certain sectors such as high tech and services are picking up. Unfortunately, jobs in these fields are for the most part low-paying. The shift is significant: wages paid in the growth industries are much lower than in the jobs that are disappearing. Research indicates that the average wage in the eight fastest-growing sectors of the economy is $7 per hour, compared to an average of over $11.50 per hour in the eight major declining industries. This trend means downward mobility for many people. A study by Seattle economist Steve Rose indicates that the middle class in the U.S. is shrinking. It dropped from 55% of all Americans in 1978 to only 42% in 1982, and over three-quarters of those who “left” the middle class fell into poverty. On the average, real take-home pay (wages adjusted for inflation) has fallen 14% since 1973. The trend is a national one, but is particularly acute in Washington. The glowing promise of the high tech industries is fading fast as it is becoming clear that these jobs cannot fill the employment void. Business Week has reported that the number of high tech jobs created over the next decade will be less than half of the jobs lost in manufacturing during the last two years. Another problem with the high tech industries is the low wage level. Though engineers and computer programmers typically earn in excess of $30,000 per year, assemblers earn only $6 per hour. These industries tend to exploit the labor of those people with relatively few job options — women, people of color, undocumented workers. The work is mostly non-union, with few benefits and poor working conditions. Clark County, in Southwest Washington, is an area which has suffered from layoffs in both the aluminum and wood products industries. When Kyocera International, a Japanese high tech company, announced in August that it planned to build a $30 million plant there that would employ 2,500 people, many residents were jubilant. What went unnoticed was the fact that the Kyocera intends to pay 80% of its workers only $4 per hour. The state is, ironically, planning on spending over $4 million dollars in state funds to aid Kyocera, money that will go towards creating jobs that pay poverty wages. The biggest jobs-producer in recent years has been the retail trade and service sector, which accounted for over 100,000 new jobs created in the state between 1976 and 1982. People employed in service jobs, for example, janitors, cashiers, clerical and food service workers, receive average hourly wages of only $6.55 per hour — 60% of the state average manufacturing wage. This sector also has a highly-polarized pay structure — a few high paying management and professional jobs and many more low-paying and menial jobs. A major problem with this shift in the state economy is that it will have a negative ripple effect: since the increasing service industry is largely a product of a healthy manufacturing sector, as basic industries stagnate, growth in service jobs will also decline, narrowing the state’s job opportunities further. POVERTY ON A ROLL One unemployed Raymond logger, when asked what was wrong with the economy, stated “some of 'em are creaming it and the rest of us are eating it." Even the Wall Street Journal recently reported a new Urban Institute study that found the economic outlook to be “considerably less rosy than the Reagan administration predicts." The study found that since 1980, the disposable income of the poorest one-fifth of all American families has declined by 7.6%, while the income of the top one-fifth has risen by 8.7%. According to the Bureau of the Census, 35 million American people are living below the poverty level, a negative trend begun in 1978 under the Carter administration. There is clear evidence of a growing and serious poverty problem in our own state. A May, 1984 report by the King County Health Planning Council indicated that there are almost three-quarters of a million poor residents in Washington state today. According to Washington State Employment Security, 91,844 persons in the state exhausted all forms of unemployment benefits in 1983. 201,374 people were served by food banks in Seattle and King County that same year, up from 19,201 in 1980. And last year, the Seattle Emergency Housing Coalition had to turn away over 4,000 homeless families. Women and children are among those hardest hit and are joining the ranks of the poor in disproportionately large numbers. They comprise seventy-five percent of the poor people in the U.S. today. For women, finding a job-doesn’t necessarily mean a safeguard from poverty, as it does for many men, simply because the majority of jobs available to women are low- paying, dead-end ones — a “pink-collar ghetto." C ROWN ZELLERBACH HAS DOUBLED THE SIZE OF ITS .HUGE CAMAS, WASHINGTON PAPER MILL, BUT THE $300 MILLION CAPITAL EXPENDITURE CREATED NO NEW JOBS. The economic strain of low-wage work is compounded by the increasing likelihood that women will carry- primary responsibility for supporting themselves and their children. The number of households headed by women increased by nearly 100% between 1970 and 1980. In 1981, these homes had a poverty rate of 68% for blacks, 67% for Latinos and 43% for whites. The growing poverty of women and children nation-wide is mirrored in Washington. In the Central Area of Seattle, for example, one out of every four children is growing up poor. 75% of all female-headed households are now in poverty. WOMEN AND CHILDREN LAST: The Feminization of Poverty The spiraling pattern of women’s impoverishment is rooted in persistent gender inequities in the labor market and rapidly changing family structures. Women’s work remains systematically underpaid; compared to men, women earn less than they did 25 years ago. One out of every three women working full time earns under $7,000 per year; only 2.5% earn over $25,000. Although affirmative action has helped some women break out of the “pink-collar ghetto," and into non-traditional jobs, women still only hold 2% of all skilled craft jobs, compared to 1% in 1961, and they are often the first to be laid off in basic industries. In addition, phenomenal growth of families maintained by women is occurring across all races and classes. Divorce, an economic disaster for many women, accounts for much of the increase in female-headed households, though many women who have never married are also supporting families. Changing family structures are leaving women financially responsible for raising the children, while policy changes, such as affordable day care, lag behind. The poverty rate for households headed by women is now six times that of households headed by men. These hard times have been particularly harsh for older women — three-quarters of the elderly poor are women. Especially acute is the problem of unemployment, as age discrimination is a major barrier to either entering or re-entering the workforce. “I've been basically unemployed since October 1982,” says 58-year-old Ellen Christensen of Seattle, “and in all my years I've never experienced any of this before. I’ve never been unemployed involuntarily for more than a few week at a time, except for one time when I changed locations and was just coming out of a divorce. I think particularly for women over 50 or 55 years old, it’s damn near impossible to be employed if you lose your job.” Like Christina Hogner of South Bend, Christensen took a Chore Services job to make ends meet. The job pays $3.60 per hour. It’s an area of work the state has targeted for senior citizens’ employment training — yet the pay for chore workers remains below poverty level. “One of the discouraging things about looking for work,” says Ellen, “is that I’m not inexperienced. I have a college degree, I have years of supervisory experience, but I cannot find a job.” For women of color, there is the added burden of racism, a major factor contributing to both unemployment and underemployment. Women of color face the most severe problems of job discrimination. According to the latest figures, Black women earn 58 cents, Latinas earn 53 cents and Asian-Pacific women earn 44 cents to a white man’s dollar. For many of these women, the current situation is not so much one of downward mobility as it is a crisis gone from bad to worse. “This so-called recovery doesn’t mean a damn thing to me,” says Katalina Montero, a single mother and community organizer living in Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood. “I'm still worrying about having enough money to buy my kids milk. It isn’t any different than it was before.” The declining economic status of women — the “feminization" of poverty — is a crisis in need of immediate attention. Better jobs for women would have a startling effect on the problem. A recent government study showed that if women were paid the wages similarly-qualified men earn, about half the families now living in poverty would not be poor. A disproportionate share of poverty and joblessness in the state has been borne by people of color. Unemployment levels for blacks and Latinos in Washington have been 50% higher than the state average for some time. For Native Americans, unemployment has exceeded 250% of the state rate. The poverty rates for blacks and Latinos who are working is nearly three times higher than the rate for whites. “One injustice I see in the economy is that our people are having to work for a lot less than even the minimum wage, especialiy our undocumented workers,” says Lucy Serenil, a Chicana lay minister in the Catholic Archidocese of Seattle. “I think it’s a myth that there are new jobs being created,” she adds. “It’s just something to put on the headlines to sell newspapers.” The shifting Washington economy is clearly not benefitting many of the state’s citizens — at least not in numbers one might expect in a period of “economic recovery.” A significant number of people are worse off now than they were five years ago. This can no longer be ignored. State policy-makers must face up to the task of recognizing the crisis and doing something about it — before the “recovery” gets even worse. WHAT WE SHOULD EXPECT FROM THE ECONOMY If poeple were asked to describe what a reasonably good economy is, there would probably be fairly widespread agreement as to what such economy should incorporate: 1) Everyone who wants a job and is willing to work should have a secure job; 2) Everyone should have the right to a wage which provides them with a decent standard of living; 3) There should not be extremes of wealth and poverty. It’s doubtful many people would say that our present economy today meets that description. Yet, there has been little effort by our state’s policy-makers to take the steps that are needed to correct the situation. High unemployment, low wages and gross inequalities are becoming accepted as a norm by many of our policymakers. The people of the state are going to have to take up the struggle for jobs, decent income and equality if there is going to be any hope for change. A PROGRAM FOR REBUILDING WASHINGTON Solutions to high unemployment and downward mobility exist but it will take a concerted organizing effort to both propose them and implement them. First of all, we need to educate both citizens and policy-makers about the causes of the crisis and the seriousness of the problem. Secondly, we need to mobilize our communities to demand that the state adopt a serious, and workable, economic program that can create jobs and begin an end to poverty. Finally, we need to convince legislators and other policy-makers that there is an immediate need for such a program'— or elect new policy-makers who don’t need convincing. Given the lack of alternatives the state legislature has proposed it would be difficult for a public representative to oppose any realistic economic program that had support. \A/hat follows is a program which could begin to address many of the problems facing the state. It does not contain all the answers, nor are the steps proposed very big ones. They are simply ones that can and should be taken now. 1. ENCOURAGE LOCAL COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS Shoalwater Jobs in Raymond is an example of a community owned and directed development effort that has the potential for making a concrete difference in the economic well-being of the community. Established two years ago by Don Comstock and Cheryl Wilkie, it is a community development corporation organized on the principle that such development be controlled by the people whose lives it benefits. Community participation is essential to the success of the project, says Wilkie. “We need to begin to tie together the people with the needs with economic decision-making.” The impact of Shoalwater Jobs can reach beyond the immediate commuinty, and Wilkie and Comstock are now working with similar projects to share resources and technical. assistance. “People who are working in other projects around the state, producer co-ops or community service projects, for example, need to have more control over state level decision-making. And it needs to happen on a political movement level, as well.” When Shoalwater Jobs began in 1982, residents of the community were reeling from plant closures and seemingly unsol- vable economic problems. The first task of Shoalwater was to develop ways by which people could regain some control over their lives. After community planning meetings to deteremine what was W E NEED TO MOBILIZE OUR COMMUNITIES TO DEMAND THAT THE STATE ADOPT A SERIOUS, AND WORKABLE, ECONOMIC PROGRAM THAT CAN CREATE JO B S AND BEGIN AN END TO POVERTY. needed, the Self-Help project was established. This project allows members to directly exchange skills in the community. One member can paint another’s house in exchange for day care or trade an auto tune-up for mowing the lawn. It has helped to foster trust within the commuinty and enabled people to get through a time when there is little cash available. The Self-Help project now has over 200 members. Local residents also organized an annual children’s day camp during summer. Adults in the community participate in the day camp by sharing their skills and knowledge with the children. These kinds of activities have helped to create a spirit of cooperation and a feeling of greater self-confidence among residents of the community. Shoawater Jobs is now in the process of establishing a locally-controlled enterprise — Shoalwater Fuelwood — which can provide well-paying jobs in the commuinty. Cho10 Clinton St. Quarterly