When employees at the steel manufacturer LTV cheered the
resignation last November of the corporation's chief executive--he had been
brought in only a year earlier to save the company--it was a telling sign.
Steelworkers, who bristled at CEO William Bricker's continuing campaign to slash
their wages and cut off health insurance for retirees, had become convinced that
he was purposefully scuttling the operations with his wastefulness and wild
A little over a year ago, 100 workers tried to form a union at Transit Express, a low-wage Milwaukee company that the county government pays to transport disabled people. Their employer put up surveillance cameras, hired security guards, distributed anti-union literature, and gave workers a pay hike--which he warned they could lose if they voted for a union. The workers became frightened, and a pro-union majority dissolved.
Late last year, Nicole Howard was laid off when
Montgomery Ward went
bankrupt. In the spring, she happily found a new job cleaning rooms at Chicago's
venerable Palmer House Hilton Hotel. But on September 14, she says, her boss
"just told me that because of what happened on September 11, they had to lay
people off," and another job was gone. A 32-year-old former welfare recipient,
Howard was ineligible for unemployment insurance because she hadn't worked long
enough, and she and her 15-year-old daughter were soon evicted from their rented
room and forced to live with relatives. Now, since some high-seniority room
attendants voluntarily cut their hours to share the work, she gets called back
The breaking point for parents of Chicago's schoolchildren finally came in the fall of 1987: For the ninth time in less than two decades public school teachers were out on strike. The years of financial game-playing, continued crisis, and, most of all, educational decline had taken their toll.
Last fall, Martha Jernegons got a raise. By the standards of the new dot-com economy, it wasn't much--just $2.15 per hour. But for Jernegons, a 56-year-old home health care aide in Chicago, working for a private agency that is reimbursed by the city, it was a 40 percent increase, to $7.60 an hour. Though she still lives below the poverty line--and still lacks health insurance--with a daughter and six grandchildren, that $2.15 an hour made a big difference. She's finally paying off an old $600 medical bill that had been hanging over her for years. "The raise gave me a different outlook on life," she said. "I feel better about myself. Now I can go to Payless and buy a pair of shoes."