Wednesday, January 07, 2009

We the people

"Ohio's Internet site to sign up for unemployment benefits crashed today because of high demand."

"The number of unemployed workers in Ohio has increased by 95,000 in the past 12 months from 340,000. The November 2007 unemployment rate for Ohio was 5.7 percent."

Her name is Greta and she has two children (9 and 2 years old). She was a receptionist for eighteen years and when she was laid off from her job last June, she came to work for our county planning department. In December, she was notified there was no longer any money in the county budget to appropriate for her position. Luckily, she was in a union and they went to bat for her so that she could slide over to the maintenance department and take a job cleaning the same office she had previously worked in (ever so briefly). She took a four dollar per hour pay cut in order to keep her healthcare benefits for her family.

With a smile, she told me, "Today it's my day to have broad shoulders...I have to carry the load...do what I have to do...and pray that this doesn't last too long."

At the risk of sounding like a bad television news report (imagine Katie Couric's most serious voice)...this is the face of the current economic crisis. It's so easy to hear the numbers and not actually understand what they mean. It's so easy to draw that line between "us" and "them," when the plain fact is that there is no line...a fact you'd think I'd be well familiar with by now.

Greta didn't do anything wrong. She didn't deserve this. But here she is wearing maintenance overalls instead of office dress clothes...cleaning 23 bathrooms in one day because she has to provide for her kids.

I suddenly feel ashamed of myself...guilty...and incredibly in awe of the maintenance lady.

1 comment:

Julia said...

I heard about those website crashes on the way to work today-- there were a few in different states.

It's terrible that people have to take whatever job comes with insurance. not having national coverage is a complete disgrace.