I am writing in response to the Clare Goldsberry Perspective ``Welfare won't impart work ethic'' that appeared in the June 5 issue [Page 14]. If employers want people to come to work for them, they will have to make it economically motivating. I am currently living in southern Ohio and drawing welfare. It is a fact that I am not proud of. But, it is a scenario that is being played out all over this country. This is my story, and it is all too familiar among welfare recipients in the United States today.
After 16 years of steady employment in plastics (I worked for Fiat Products Inc., a producer of whirlpools, bathtubs, and shower units), I was permanently laid off due to the factory being closed.
We relocated to some land we were buying in southern Ohio. I was able to find work at a nursing home that was 25 miles away for $4.25 an hour, but was only guaranteed 32 hours per week. My husband wasn't able to find employment, so we were living on my check and receiving $160 a month in food stamps. We didn't have any health insurance and were barely making it from check to check. Then, in January 1992, I shattered my left wrist in a car accident while driving home from my midnight shift. Needless to say, I was unable to perform the job duties that my work required of me. Our family was forced to go on welfare.
We discovered that it was economically better for us to be in ``the system.'' Welfare gave us $341 per month in money, plus $300 in food stamps and a medical card. It didn't take a genius to figure out that welfare would better our financial position.
In March, I was given the opportunity to attend college through a welfare program. I became a full-time student at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. In June 1994, I graduated with a 3.3 grade point average and received my associate's degree of applied science in plastics engineering technologies.
However, I am still on welfare today.
There are several reasons for this: Employers want the skilled labor, but they don't want to pay for it. Why should I go to work for wages that won't even pay our bills, and usually don't include any insurance benefits?
I don't think that it is too much to want to live in a better place, buy a newer car, and provide my son with nicer clothes to wear to school. Since my husband recently suffered a heart attack, I will be the sole wage earner for our family of three. (This is not an unusual situation, since most welfare families only have one parent that is able to work).
Then there is the subject of a person's gender. Now I am not a ``woman's libber,'' as anyone who knows me will tell you. But discrimination is still out there, alive and well, in too many workplaces. I went on one job interview where a male graduate from Shawnee State had been started out at $27,000 plus per year. I was offered the same job at the starting rate of $6 per hour. Now I ask you, would you have accepted the job? Could you support your family on $6 an hour?
Another factor is age. Since I am over 40, most employers must feel that older employees won't contribute to the company's success as much as a younger employee would. Older employees usually have better work ethics, experience and know the value of going the ``extra mile'' for the customer. They know the importance of being on time to work, and occasionally having to stay over after hours to help solve a problem.
Employers lament that they can't find or keep good help. Maybe they are part of the problem. They don't want to pay the wages required to obtain them. I feel that I have the necessary qualifications to be a good employee. I have a strong desire to succeed and be the best that I can be. But, I can't do it for wages that will not cover our bills and allow us to improve our situation and put a few dollars away in the bank each payday.
Work ethics and skilled labor come with a price tag. I refuse to take a job where I will be worse off than if I stayed on welfare. Would you?
DiNardo lives in Blue Creek, Ohio.