Related: 'Dropping out' of the middle class

Interview: Home-care provider: 'this is about people'

Thursday, April 28th, 2011 

Theresa Law, an independent, home-care provider, says she is seeing an upswing in the job market and hope for Ohio workers, but she also said the country's leadership needs to focus on creating successful opportunities for the middle class.

Theresa Law works in Lucasville, Ohio.

At the One Nation rally interviewed by reporter Kat Aaron:

What kind of changes have you felt in your life over the last couple of years, since the recession started?

Well, I've had some downturn. However, I've had some good things happen, too. I was one of those folks who could not get proper health insurance for a pre-existing condition. I now have good insurance. So I think there are some good, positive things that have been happening through this recession.

And in your hometown, what’s changed there? Is it the same as it was a few years ago?

You know, it's about the same where I come from. Because I come from a small area, that was already depressed, and at a loss for jobs. We're seeing a little difference in that with Ted Strickland as our governor now, we're starting to get some jobs back into Ohio. I'd love to see that type of progression continue, and we end up with jobs in this country that can't be outsourced, that are gonna be here for us and generations to come. You don't notice a lot when you're already depressed, you know. But we're coming back.

I think there's the idea that everything was great until Bear Sterns collapsed.

Yeah, and that's just not the case. I mean, I come from one of the most depressed counties in Ohio, as a matter of fact, in the nation, so that's not the case. We've always been having trouble. We've been having trouble for the last you know, eight years or so, with jobs. The answer is jobs, and jobs that are a working man's wage, not a minimum wage job that a teenager should be working to put gas in their car. But good paying jobs, with benefits, that people can live on. Most people aren't looking to get rich. They're looking to pay their bills, send their kids to school and move on.

You mentioned outsourcing. Has that been a big problem in Ohio?

Oh, yeah, outsourcing has been a huge problem in Ohio. Ohio was one of the biggest states for manufacturing jobs in the country. And they're almost non-existent now. Ted Strickland's brought a couple, a few things back, and changed some things up. We've got a company in Columbus that made cassette tapes. Of course that's gone, but he helped them revamp and now they're gonna make the film to go on solar panels, which are the types of jobs we need in this country.

If you could send a message, say something directly to the President, or to elected officials from Ohio, members of Congress, what would you tell them?

I would tell them this is about people. It's not about your own self-interest. It's not about your pocketbook. This is about people, and all the people matter. And that includes the middle class. The middle class has carried this country for years upon years upon years, and now you want to get rid of us. Who's gonna drive it? You know, you've gotta have a driver, and I say that there is a way for everybody to come together and compromise. Stop acting like 5-year-olds. If you don't have everything your way, you'll take your toys and go home. Let's stop the nonsense. Let's be adults and look at things and say, look, you know, we can do some give and take here. And everybody can get something that they're needing in their lives.

I think that people need to realize that success is not always about how big your pocketbook is. You know my whole neighborhood is scrambling to see how they're gonna pay their bills. If things keep going like they are, I don't see myself being in the position to take care of the elderly in their home. When you make cuts, you're cutting on those folk. You're cutting the services that they need to stay home. I've seen that happen. It’s not good. These same people end up in a facility. You're gonna pay for that facility too, and you're gonna pay ten times the amount as you would to keep those services there for those folks.

Six months later:

When we talked back in October, you said that some bad things had happened for you since the recession started, but some good things too, particularly with the new health care law. It’s been about six months since we talked. Are you more positive, less, the same?

Well you know, I live in Ohio. So six months ago, in October of last year, I was a little more confident than I am now. Because we’ve had some bad things happen in Ohio that are going to affect our daily lives, our economy, our jobs. Our politicians seem to just keep running with those things anyway.

Independent home-care providers, which is what I am were, were organized through an executive order under the old governor, Strickland. When governor Kasich came in, he immediately said nope, I’m not extending that. Right away, we lost our collective bargaining rights.

(Editors' Note:  Independent home health-care providers in Ohio were only able to join a union through an executive order signed by the governor. Before they were covered by the union, Law says, they were often paid late by state agencies, and paid for their health care through expensive individual plans. As members of the Service Employees International Union, they were paid more regularly and were able to join the union health care plan. When Gov. John Kasich was elected, he declined to continue the executive order. The workers lost their union eligibility.)

The things that happened were just amazing to me. As soon as this happened, I said it won’t take long. Before we were organized, we were going eight weeks without our paychecks. There was nowhere to go. Our current governor did not care. It did not faze him at all. That’s very discouraging. These girls and guys came together to be able to have shared health care, to have something. That’s not there any more.

When you lower the standard for one group of workers, especially in the public sector, that standard is going to lower for the private sector as well.

Things don’t seem so good. Things are very scary right now.

You keep seeing these rights being taken from people all across this country. I’ve only been a part of a union for three years.. Being an independent provider showed me why unions exist. I believe there’s good and bad in this world, and there are some unions that are better than others. Everyone’s going, they protect the bad workers. OK. In every workplace, you have 50 workers, you might have two or three that are bad. You want to kick the other ones in the teeth because you have two or three bad ones?

It is not about the American people any more. It just is not. It’s just about greed and power. It’s very scary.

(Law has been active in Ohio politics over the past several months, pushing to get a referendum on the ballot for November seeking a repeal of SB5, the legislation that weakens collective bargaining rights for public sector workers in Ohio.)

We figure it needs to go to the public. My goodness, we had 11,000 people at the statehouse yelling and screaming, saying please don’t do this. They’re not listening to the people. They’re treating us like little children who don’t know what’s good for us.

You have this on both sides of the fence. I vote people, I do not vote parties. I have an excellent representative where I live, and he’s a Republican. But most of the representatives in the Ohio statehouse are not representing the people.

You had mentioned that you were able to get insurance for the first time under the Obama health care bill because you had a pre-existing condition that had made it hard to get coverage in the past. Do you still have insurance, or did you lose it when you lost your union membership?

I paid for that myself. I didn’t join in the group. Because I had had a hard time getting anything. And I was just afraid to let go of it. I still pay $250 a month for my health insurance.

You talked about your area, one of the most economically depressed counties of Ohio. How are things in the community?

Well, they’re not good. There are still no jobs. What jobs there are are being worked on phased out. We have a youth detention center down there that the governor has on his list to shut down, or to privatize. There’s just really nothing there. The jobs that are there are public jobs, and those people are scared. Those jobs are going to go with public bill 5.

Think about it this way: If someone has to take $200 out of their check and pay it towards something that they’re not used to paying, where is that $200 going to come from? If that’s money that people are used to putting towards their mortgage or their groceries, where is that going to come from? You’re going to look at people starting to lose their homes. People are afraid down there. And I don’t blame them. It’s scary.

I think for some elected officials, it’s really hard to conceptualize that $200 is a make or break amount.

But it is. When these people are elected to office, they need to add three months to their term, and in those three months they need to go live with a regular working family that’s struggling. I’m talking about a family that’s working, struggling. They need to go live with them, they need a little slice of reality. Because they have none.

They don’t understand what $200 can do. When you put a $200 pair of shoes on their feet, it’s hard to understand what that money means.

Elected officials need to come out of that bubble. A lot of it’s the same with these guys at the state level. You would think it would be a little different because they’re closer to the people. But it’s not. Because they’re not really looking out for the people.

I don’t have anything against people who have money. I grew up in a decent home. My parents ran businesses, and I didn’t want for anything. I wasn’t allowed to be spoiled, but I didn’t need.

If somebody could shake the American people, and say stop this nonsense of voting for parties. Vote for people. If you look at how they vote! Until we stand up and demand that they start listening to the people, this is what we’re going to get. But we’re going to fight these fights. It just takes so much money to fight some of the laws that they’ve passed.

And you said that if you could talk to elected officials, you’d tell them to stop thinking about politics and their own self-interest, and start thinking about people. Do you see that happening?

Not a lot, no. I have to give my representative Terry Johnson all kinds of credit. I have to give politicians like Sherrod Brown all kinds of credit. (Editor's Note: Johnson is a Republican in the Ohio state legislature; Brown is a Democratic senator.) They are still listening. They are trying to do the people’s will. But for the most part, politicians don’t listen.

How do you see the next six months?

In a way that depends. If we get this (the SB5 referendum) on the ballot, and the public votes the law down, then I think we could see Ohioans rallying against the type of administration we have going that is just sticking it to the working man. If that happens, I see spirits rising. I see people standing up and saying we do have some control.

If it isn’t voted down, I see job loss. More job loss. I see families struggling even more than what they have been. I see food banks going to be in more need. I see food stamps going to be in more need. I see a lot of things looking down. I just don’t see a good future if these kinds of laws pass and hold. I don’t see a good thing happening.

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