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Houston Breakthrough 1980-09
Pages 18 and 19
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Houston Breakthrough 1980-09 - Pages 18 and 19. September 1980. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. September 23, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/6082/show/6073.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(September 1980). Houston Breakthrough 1980-09 - Pages 18 and 19. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/6082/show/6073

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough 1980-09 - Pages 18 and 19, September 1980, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed September 23, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/6082/show/6073.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough 1980-09
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date September 1980
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 30 page periodical
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Pages 18 and 19
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name femin_201109_563o.jpg
Transcript RECESSION BLUES Down, and sometimes out, in the best economic climate in the country BY MORRIS EDELSON AND JANE COLLINGS Tom Sanders, laborer,."The economy in this town seems better than in a lot of places. In the whole country there are little pockets like Houston where there's still a lot of work. It won't last long, though. People will flood in and fill it up. Years ago, people from the South were moving to the industrial cities in the North to find work.Now, those places are burning out and a big migration to the sun belt has begun. I've been looking for work out of the labor pools.These plants have work that needs doing, but they say they don't have skilled people to man them. Now why don't they teach the people a skill? The plants have all the money and they need people to work. You can't wait on the government all the time-it's too badly run to be of any help. These labor pools are just a big racket. They've got jobs paying eight, nine dollars an hour, and the guy that runs the place pockets five of that. Anyway, you need a car to get out to the jobs and I don't have one. My friend who works at the highway patrol once told me you got all these guys hiring wet-backs to work. When it comes time to pay them, they turn them over to the border police. Judy Gechman, director of the Houston Area Shelter for Battered Women: We have noticed in the past few months we never have a vacancy in our women's shelters that lasts more than a few hours. They used to last weeks. All kinds of violence in the home is increasing with stress. It's not just poor people, it is a philosophy of family violence—78% of the men who batter wives or children grew up in homes that were violent. They are psychologically insecure. The couple is likely to have both partners psychologically insecure, both with low self esteem. Both Tom Sanders: "You can't wait on the government; it's too badly run to be of any help/' of them believe in the traditional 'the man-is-boss' sex role. The one thing you are hearing battered women say, again and again, is "My husband won't let me work, he won't let me . . ." These women are insecure because they are isolated—a lot of them come here with their families, for jobs, and they have no place to go outside the home, no roots here. There's not that much unemployment in Houston, but there is plenty of psychological insecurity, isolation and battering. Niami Hansen, community activist: I use the car a lot less—I use it as little as possible and seldom ever take it out of the city. Food, I haven't gone without meals, but I eat a whole lot less meat and I try to eat a lot cheaper. Basically, I do things with other people, so my entertainment is mainly with my friends. I think the recession is broadbased, and that we are being pushed into a war. I've been passing out leaflets against the draft. I think the government is trying to get our patriotism hopping so we will go to war for our oil. I think with unemployment so high, a lot of young people are feeling, "I have to join the Army to get a career." Jesse Alaniz, ACORN member and Allied Industries employee: The recession has had a big impact on us, especially low-to- moderate income people. We are not even S in the $15-20,000 bracket per year. = The utility increases are horrendous u for us. We are taking the brunt of all c of this. I live with my sister. She's got Z two kids. Her grocery bills are sky high, ~ her gas and light bill are way up there, a and we deny ourselves of a lot of odds and ends to see it through. I don't want to over-react, but I will tell you like it is. They can give you a dollar raise where you work and they will take it all back from you—if not on groceries, it will be on medicine, or anyway you turn. Then your Public Utilities Commission (PUC), they look like they are working for the utilities and they are supposed to protect the consumers. I am going to Austin this month to the PUC hearings to speak against those big corporate giants. They are nothing but bloodsuckers, believe me. What it really boils down to is the greedy taking from the needy! All those gas and oil companies—look at the millions they are taking in windfall profits. Do you see them plowing any of that back into hospitals, or roads, or upgrading the standards of living in the community? What they are doing is buying up chain stores and raising prices, buying land and kicking the farmers off the land. That's what it's all about. Mrs. Hutchins, retired: "Everything's different now than what it used to be. I don't like it, I can't cope with it because I am too old I guess.Every time I go to the store things are a little higher. I draw a Mrs. Hutchins: "We didn't expect this. We always worked hard and had a good income. social security check and before the week's out I'm out of money again. We didn't expect it to be this way. We always worked and had a good income." Beverly Hebert, a public relations specialist: My husband is an engineer and we have two young children. I went back to work and that increased our family income. A few years ago, with the same combined earning we would have had a lot more things. Today, people in our income bracket are just not able to do the same things that people in our income bracket would be doing a few years back, like buying furniture, landscaping the yard, taking trips. That's what it has done to us, but when I think about what it has done to others, I think that's pretty lightweight. I don't buy many clothes. But like Ellen Goodman said, "There's a big difference between not having enough clothes and not having enough food for your children." One of the secretaries who worked in my husband's office, was divorced and was on food stamps. I can identify with women like her when I think what it 18 HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH would be like if I had to live on my salary without my husband's. Victoria Smith, 60s activist preparing for convent life in the 80s: This particular recession has affected me, even though the economists say that it is not as bad as the one in 1974. This one is much worse for me because my income hasn't changed much since 74 despite the cost of living increase. I am a writer, and I could be a publicist. You know how hard it is to break into that. I* have rather unmarketable skills for right now for Houston. If I don't tend bar, or waitress, I am going to have to do office work to support myself. It's a hard realization—it really is, because it's what I have been trying to get away from. I think working with non-profit voluntary agencies can spoil you. I started out working in voluntary organizations, like SDS, Liberation News Service, in the 60s and it spoiled me. You just develop a counterculture mentality and after that it is so hard to fit into regular society. I somewhere stepped into a poverty cycle and never can get out. It infuriates me when I think about people who are well-to-do talking about those lazy people on welfare. Because you really do get down when you are not working. And you don't know if you're going to have work. And it is a cycle, you get worn down by not working and you don't want to go out and look for a job. If people are out to make money, if they want upper middle class housewife success or career girl success, I can't get into it. I wish I could, because it is hard being poor. I have to say, I am poor, and it's almost a crime to be poor in Houston. My poverty is not what other people, really poor people live in—but it is! There's something kind of shameful about it. Especially to my parents, who think I am a complete failure. This summer I told myself I had to make some money somehow, so I decided to do temporary work. For some reason they were just in a slump when I made my first application. And every day I wasn't working, I was just sunk. When I did go on some of these jobs, a lot of them that were supposed to be upfront office jobs turned out not to be. The agency told me to be sure to "Dress spiffy," and I had to laugh because \ only had one "spiffy" outfit. And it isn't very spiffy. It was really embarrassing, because there would be all these other people around, these other secretaries—young girls, usually, well-dressed, well made up—and I couldn't even afford make-up, I couldn't afford to have my hair trimmed. I was bringing hard-boiled eggs and bread and butter for lunch, and people would wonder what I was*about and why I didn't want to go out for lunch. And I was walking as much as I could. If it was within a mile, I would walk instead of taking the bus. And I did feel humiliated in a way. Even though these aren't my values, in Houston, especially, you do feel very out of it (a) if you don't have a car, no one can understand how you can possibly live, and (b) if you aren't well-dressed, well turned out. It's been very distressing to me to see how weak my faith is. Here I am a struggling Catholic girl, and all of a sudden here I am worrying about and running after all these things that the "pagans" run after. It's hard to consider the lilies of the field in Houston. Mary Picketts, domestic worker:I'm out here , trying to survive. I have five kids, and I can hardly keep them clothed and Mary Picketts: "I have five kids and I can hardly keep them clothed and fed." fed let alone all the other stuff they need. I go to work on the bus. I might spend 30 minutes travelling one way, which isn't so bad. But I might spend another 30 min - utes waiting on the thing to show up, and sometimes it might not even do that. Houston has the worst bus service I've ever seen, and that's the kind of thing that wears you out day after day." Cheryl Robideau, artist-secretary-teacher- tutor: I think everyone should move into fantasy. It's the only thing I can afford. Frank Lopez, safety coordinator for the Houston Police Department: My wife is an assistant in the Mayor's office and we have a young daughter. I can see myself pinching pennies more than a year and a half ago. More people are looking for bargains. We are. This year we were thinking about going to visit relatives in Atlanta. After we checked into the cost of gasoline, we decided to stay around the Gulf Coast. We took our vacation in Galveston. Basically, we are careful about all our expenses—gasoline, food, clothing. With clothes we are going more with things that would be lasting; we're more conservative in taste. We do more entertaining at home than going out. Instead of doing things on impulse, we think about it. We use'd to say, "let's go here and let's go there"; now we say, "that's a good idea but . . ." Even the little purchases I notice we do now by Yellow Pages. I found myself doing that this morning. There were some sales on, and ordinarily I would jump out there and buy what I just saw on the tube. But now I say to myself "I don't need that, I don't need this," or if I do, I compare prices by calling around the Yellow Pages. Often it saves me a trip. Then there's long distance. I'm more conscious of calling when the rates are cheaper. We're not at the hardship stage yet, just showing a little more concern, watching our expenses more closely. Sharon Itaya, medical doctor employed by Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) Union: The strike in the refineries here earlier this year was recession-related. About 25,000 people were off work for several months. The recession made it harder on people when they were out on strike; it's the ultimate weapon against worker unrest. The union has been hurt by the recession, because the employers have been laying off our members. Whole parts of factories have been closed down, like tetraethyl lead manufacturing at ARCO where they let 300 people go. There've been layoffs in the rubber industry as well, because of the decrease in demand for tires from the car industry. The unions have lost a good deal of political clout. I see our union locals downplaying health and safety issues because they're afraid of offending employers and of company layoffs. The younger people don't expect hard times—they haven't had to worry so far where their next check is coming from. They're using this credit thing, where $50 down gets you a condominium. Some of the older folks in the union have stand-by money. They seem to know what to anticipate and they seem to have a little left over; and the people with big notes borrow from the older folks so they won't lose their house and their car. And the unions get together to help people pay for their houses and their car notes, but it is a little harder to go around and collect to pay people's boat notes. So people lose some of their luxury items like that. On the average we're still living relatively comfortably; it's not as bad as Detroit, but it may be coming. I was just talking to a woman, a grandmother, who is a real fighter out at one of the ARCO refineries. She went out to work there six or seven years ago, because she was single and needed money. That seemed the best kind of job, rather than working 100 hours a week to make an adequate salary when she could work 40 or 50. So she went out there—they gave her all the toughest jobs. What happened to her was she got lung problems from doing her job. The other people would kind of fake it; they wouldn't get in there and clean things. She would just get in it and do it, and now she has bad bronchitis and emphysema. Whenever she gets close to those chemicals she can hardly breathe. Now she is faced with the company trying to lay her off. She sold her home already, then sold a smaller place and now is living in a small apartment. She is faced with the need to go on welfare- she has nothing to fall back on. Thelma Meltzer, artist, community activist and grandmother-to-be: My husband Saul is 61 and I'm 59. He's getting close to retiring from an oil company job. He has an herb business on the side—purely a weekend thing—that's just blossomed in the last few years. As the recession rate went up, so did our income. Money's never been anything that we worried about. We own our home and for the first time in our life, we are actually reaching comfort. It's nothing to do with the economy. But we have a daughter and her husband in Austin who are expecting a baby soon. That's where I think about the recession—young people like our children. I don't know how they manage just to buy the necessary things they need to manage a household, much less have any hopes of ever owning a home. We have tried to help them with all the extra things connected with the baby. To help them through this period, Saul got Melinda started on an herb business in Austin, which she, hopefully, will be able to resume in the fall. That will help, but they will feel the recession every day. The young and the old are most affected by this recession. I have noticed old people in the grocery store taking things out of their baskets just before they come to check out; they have just a tiny bit of money. When I hear someone talking about cutting out subsistence programs, I could just froth at the mouth! workers, Professor Smith says. Tight money has not slowed consumer purchasing, nor does it stabilize business prices. "High interest rates," says Smith, "don't really increase costs to business much. You can't even call an 18%« interest rate that high, when inflation is running 20%. It's like loaning! someone $100. A year later you get $118. But it's worth only $98." So businesses can handle the high rate, given the high inflation, and can pass some of the costs along to consumers and even, if there is a squeeze, transfer money back and forth between divisions, in effect loaning themselves money and staying out of the money market. "The high prime doesn't stop a consumer from spending all he or she earns," says Smith, "because the average consumer doesn't even face the high prime directly. We grab everything we can off the shelves, color TVs, small items, food and clothes. The upward pressure on prices exerted by the interest rates make us buy now, since things will be more expensive later. Of course, you can't get loans to buy autos or houses, but everything else you buy." Since the only purchases that are slowed down are houses and cars, which formerly involved bank help, people quit buying these items and the recession hits home builders, auto makers and steel workers. The problems in Detroit and Pittsburgh are worsened by the need to re-tool industry in those cities, but when the prime rate comes down, they will perk up. "It"s a blue collar recession," Smith concluded, "much more so than in '74— a small segment of the population is used as a battering ram to overcome inflation. The worst hurt people are the laid-off laborers, the people who had been depending on overtime or jobs to make ends meet. But, since most of our workforce is still employed, the average American is more worried about price rises than unemployment." So the prime rate jump accomplished little except some rollercoastering on Wall Street. The Joys of Poverty The economic downturn has been limited geographically to auto and steel and to the small contractor who builds houses independently. The rich haven't been hurt, nor have the very poor, says Smith. "If you were unemployed going into this recession, you can't complain. Your economic well-being is no longer associated with your employment. People receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children, unemployment compensation, disability and pensions are, more or less, where they were—in fact it may be in their interest to remain unemployed. It would cost them more relatively to have a job than not." Chandler Davidson, professor of sociology at Rice University, disagreeed with Smith about the situation and number of the poor. "There has been a great deal more poverty in Houston through the 70s than the city's publicists are willing to admit," he claimed. The recession is geographically general. Using the official government measure of poverty of an income of less than $8,500 for a family of four, and working with data from scientific surveys, Davidson estimated that at least one-fifth of Houston is poor. "About 20% of local households do not even have a checking account, let alone a savings fund," he said. "It is a widely held misconcept- ion,"Davidson said, "that these poor are all welfare recipients. Less than half of them are beneficiaries of government cash transfers such as AFDC or food stamps. The great majority of heads of poor households work, many of SEPTEMBER 19