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Programs Seek to Aid Low-Paid, Working Women

Millions of women in the United States work long hours at jobs that do not pay enough to support their families. Elizabeth Brackett reports on several programs set up to help these working women.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And next, back in this country, help for women who work long hours for low pay. NewsHour correspondent Elizabeth Brackett of WTTW-Chicago reports.

    ELIZABETH BRACKETT, NewsHour correspondent: Millions of working women are trapped in jobs that don't pay enough to support their families. Trying to change that is the latest challenge taken on by Chicago women's activist Anne Ladky.

    Thirty-five years ago, Ladky founded Women Employed, an advocacy organization dedicated to improving the working lives of women.

  • ANNE LADKY, Women Employed:

    I think what we're seeing now is that tremendous contrast between women who've taken advantage of opportunities that have opened over the past 30 years and are now working in hundreds of fields that were closed to them before.

    That's where all the attention is right now, but we still have this enormous problem of this concentration of women in low-wage, low-opportunity jobs.

  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT:

    Marie Griese, a divorced mother, is one of those women Ladky is concerned about. Griese rarely complains about her hectic schedule, but for the last 18 years she has worked two jobs in order to support her daughter.

    She makes $4.50 an hour, plus tips, waitressing at this upscale Chicago restaurant at night. At her day job in a suburban hotel restaurant, she makes just $13 an hour, despite working there for nearly two decades.

    Still, it's not the long hours and low pay that bothers her.

    MARIE GRIESE, food service worker: Not being home enough with my daughter at nighttime, because I always had to work two jobs, so — sorry — her dad was taking care of her, so I had to work. So probably that's my only regret, is not being there sometimes to tuck her in good night or just to be with her.

  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT:

    Trudging through a Chicago snowstorm to her job as a home health care aid, Sharon Lewis knows what it is like to try and support a family with a low-wage job. She cleans homes and provides light nursing care for two clients a day. Lewis earns $7.75 an hour and gets one week of vacation each year and no paid sick leave.

    SHARON LEWIS, home health care aide: The toughest part is there's no health insurance for right now. And we don't get paid for like certain days when my children are out of school. I have to come to work, because we don't have state government housing, so the days that they're out of school I have to come to work, which means that I have to work extra hard to get them to the babysitter.

  • ELIZABETH BRACKETT:

    Ladky says Lewis' situation is typical.

  • ANNE LADKY:

    Many low-wage jobs in this country have no paid time off whatsoever, not a day of earned vacation, not a day of sick time, nothing like that.

    And they're unstable schedule-wise. They make it difficult for people to care for their families or get additional schooling. So there are lots of problems in the low-wage workforce in that part of the labor market that we really need to address.

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