Platform : The 'Downsized' of '95 Look Warily at '96

For Southern Californians who got laid off in 1995, the test of economic recovery in 1996 will be whether they get back to steady employment at a decent wage. JIM BLAIR spoke with a number of people in that position, some of whom had aleady lost one career when aerospace folded in the late 1980s.

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MARSHA RICOTTONE

Former sales manager for womens's clothing manfacturer, lives in Downey

My initial reaction [to being laid off] was shock, because I was very comfortable in the position. I enjoyed it and felt I was doing a good job.

I felt hurt and upset and basically out of control in the situation. It's most definitely affected my self-esteem because I've always been a very successful person who had no problem with getting work. I'd go for an interview and I'd be hired. I'd only be out of work for a day. [Now] it's been a long time and very depressing. I went through a very critical self-analysis. I have a degree in marketing and economics. I'm used to making great deals of money.

So for me it was earth-shaking. I've had to come up with a whole different lifestyle basically and get down to what really is necessary versus what was totally frivolous before. So I had to go back to learning how to budget. I had to say, no, we don't need to do that. It has put a strain on the family because we've had to approach things differently. But I have a great family and they've been very supportive. And that's what I've been doing, developing my relationships more.

Eventually, somebody told me about the federally funded Job Training Partnership Act [program] in Long Beach. [It's] given me much hope. Like right now I'm in an interview class. And it's really showing me the way to approach [a prospective employer] because I hadn't interviewed really for a very long time. Before, I would hire my own staff and train them and go from there. So now the shoe is on the other foot.

I'm finding out that I really need to sell myself more because I have always downplayed myself pretty much as a woman. And I just hadn't been thinking along the lines of changing careers and being flexible.

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RICHARD VERA

Former electronic vehicle repair specialist, County USC Medical Center, Los Angeles.

Back in the early and mid-'80's, I was an aircraft mechanic for Northrop Industries. I worked on the F-16, the F-18, on the F-20--which was an experimental aircraft--and I worked on the B-2 bomber.

I had to go back to college when the work in that field evaporated. I got a degree in engineering electronics and it took me a year to get a job [at County USC in 1994]. I got the job because I volunteered to work there every day for free to get experience until they hired me.

Before I got the job there I was living at my dad's. In the year and a half that I worked at County USC, I rented a house, filled it full of furniture. I had a steady income. My life was looking very good. When we got cut off, we got cut off kind of all of a sudden. I went in the first wave [of county budget cuts] on Aug. 31 [1995].

I'm forced to scrounge. I'm collecting unemployment, but it's nothing. And I've got creditors breathing down my neck. I've got insurance companies who are trying to sue me. And I can't pay them. I've got to file bankruptcy this year and start all over again.

I'm living here with my dad and I take care of my dad--me and my brother and my dad. And it's terrible here. Every two weeks, we wait for the mailman to come because he's going to bring us our checks and on half of the block, somebody's stealing the checks.

All this stuff people say in the newspaper about the country doing good--only the upper middle class and the rich people are. But down here, we're screwed.

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AGRIPINA HUERTA

Former parent organizer for Hope in Youth program, East L.A.

When I was with Hope in Youth, I worked giving parenting classes in my community, visiting people and doing one-on-one interviewing. The main mission of Hope in Youth was to maintain the family united. I was talking with people about better communication between parents and youth and finding the root of problems between parents and their children.

Because of funding reductions, I was laid off last February. But I decided to stay on voluntarily because I felt a big necessity to finish what I had started. I continued without pay until I found a lady who replaced me--voluntarily also. Now I'm studying to get my high school diploma and I'm planning to go to college [to become a] social worker. For now, we are living on just my husband's income and my unemployment payments.

I have lived in East Los Angeles for 28 years. I am married and I have seven children, ages 9 to 20. The two oldest are now in college and working part-time, two in high school, one in middle school and two in elementary. They're proud of me. It has been a lot of work for me and a lot of effort with this big family and doing [what I have been doing], so they help me a lot.

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ALBERT S. YBARRA

Former aircraft mechanic, McDonnell-Douglas, Buena Park

Layoffs are the worst thing that can happen to anybody and when a job does that to you it really hurts. They hire by the thousands and say to your face they guarantee you a job. Then they start laying off by the thousands. Nothing's ever a guarantee.

This layoff really changed everything in my life. Right now I'm going to school full-time on a program called Trade Readjustment Assistance that's paying for it all through the government and that helps me out a lot; but what they pay me to go to school and what I used to make is a big change, a big difference--a little bit less than half of what I used to make a week.

I've changed from aerospace to physical therapy and chiropractic sports medicine. I'm studying at Pacific College in Costa Mesa. If they would hire me back to aerospace I would take that but I would also go with what I'm doing right now. I'd have a two-job lifestyle. I would hope to work aerospace at night and then my physical therapy in the morning until that developed into more money so that I could just quit aerospace.

There's too many layoffs in aerospace. And I know that the career that I'm going into will be there for a long time.

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