(They drive our trains and buses, teach our children, repair our roads and protect our safety. Public employees perform these and countless other jobs, although they remain mostly off the radar of the public they serve. Our Common Ground series takes us into the lives of these men and women.)
In a large lecture hall in the Biological Sciences Building of Cal State L.A., a student in the introductory anthropology class raised his hand to inquire as to whether or not female chimpanzees demonstrated the same sexual behaviors with each other that males did. “Not that it matters…” he remarked sheepishly. His question elicited giggles across the room while Dr. Jessica Bodoh-Creed shook her head knowledgably, visibly pleased with engagement of her students as she pointed out some key differences in male and female chimp behavior. With captivating energy, Dr. Bodoh-Creed continued her lecture on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees with anecdotes and media to maintain active listening among her one hundred and forty students.
It’s official: America has entered a retirement crisis. Or, as Forbes understatedly put it, “the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world.”
Frying Pan News recently spoke with some former state, county and municipal workers for a picture of how their retirements have been living up to their expectations.
Norma Anders, Long Beach
Retired career librarian Norma Anders’ eyes light up when she speaks of her 30 years in the City of Los Angeles’ public library system. “We make a big difference,” she declares proudly. “We’re one of the forces that’s giving our country an educated workforce, an informed citizenry. [It’s how] we’re going to be able to keep our [nation] growing and growing.”
Anders is having her morning tea in the well-manicured front yard of the modest clapboard house she shares with her retired husband, David, and her son Lee, who has moved back home while he finishes an accounting degree at Long Beach State.
Cathy Ellorin has to fight for each and every hour of her job. In fact, she has to fight to convince the people who pay her that what she does is a job at all. It’s not as though she works short hours; actually, she gets no time off at all. Her job isn’t easy, either.
Cathy is currently employed as an in-home caretaker to her daughter Natalia, who has cerebral palsy. California State’s In-Home Supportive Services program (IHSS) provides Cathy with financial support to enable her to stay at home with Natalia and keep her safe and happy. But Cathy has to fight to keep this support coming.
From the first years of Natalia’s life, Cathy could tell something wasn’t right. Natalia’s tremors were disconcerting enough, but the daughter’s inability to feed properly was far worse.
Cathy took Natalia to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles for a wide range of neurological testing,
(They drive our trains and buses, teach our children, repair our roads and protect our safety. Public employees perform these and countless other jobs, although they remain mostly off the radar of the public they serve. With our new “Pro Publica” series, Frying Pan News presents the lives of these men and women front and center.)
After 10 years of marriage, Aisha Blanchard-Young’s husband is still shocked by the amount of time Aisha spends in her kindergarten classroom teaching. He jokes that if someone really wants to find out what it is like to be a teacher, they should talk to a teacher’s spouse. As a quality control technician for a stadium electronics company, he never has to take his work home. Aisha isn’t as lucky.
During the school year Aisha gets up at five in the morning to ready herself and the couple’s two boys (one 5 and one 2) for the day.
Judy West is a founding member and current president of Local 741 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME). She also works for the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks as a recreation assistant and teaches “parent-and-me” classes. The department’s only fulltime employees are its directors and other administrators – assistants like West work halftime. Frying Pan News reporter Luke Dowling sat down with her to talk about the state of unions in Los Angeles.
Frying Pan News: Tell me a little about yourself and how you came to be president of AFSCME Local 741.
Judy West: I was one of its organizers and was treasurer for a while, then became president. We had nothing before we organized. When a union rep came in and said, “We’ve been asked by different rec assistants to organize a union,” I said, “You got me!