Cover Story

Passing Life Lessons from generation to generation: Beverly J. Jones and daughters Tremerell J. Robinson and Jonette N. Arms tell their story. (July/Aug 2011)

Beverly J. JonesBeverly J. Jones … I followed my aunt and uncle, Rubye and Oscar Johnson, to Milwaukee from Marvell, Arkansas in 1959. I had gone to college for one year and came here to make a better life for myself. I worked at Briggs and Stratton for a while and retired from the Veterans Hospital in 1996.

I have two daughters Tremerell Robinson, my oldest, and Jonette Arms. Both of them live here in the city. I see them at least once a week and we talk two or three times daily.

I had two sisters, Ceola Mayberry and Lois Wilson, who were very close and dear to me. After being divorced, I relied on their support to raise my daughters. They helped me a lot with babysitting and sometimes even pitched in financially. After a couple years, I bought a house. My sister Lois moved upstairs. I worked second shift. She worked first shift. So, we rotated with keeping the children. I guess dealing with the finances was the hardest part of raising my children as a single parent. But we had a happy life. I tried to provide them with an educational and secure environment. I strived to enrich each child with a love for learning, a positive self-image and sense of creativity.

I have a strong loving relationship with both of my girls. Tremerrell and Jonette are different personalities. Jonette loves to help others. Whenever she can, she calls me. Tremerell is quiet and to herself. Both of my daughters are educated, responsible women. Jonette has a good job. Tremerell has her own business.
I grew up on a farm in a loving family with my father and mother. My mother taught me to respect other people. She was a gentle, soft-spoken person and a only child. Her mother died when she was eight and her father died the year after that. Her grandmother raised her. I had nine brothers and sisters. Mother had her hands full but she spread her love among all of us. She died in 2005 at the age of 91. I am the oldest living in my family. I believe that I've lived in a way to show the younger generations to be loving, to be there for each other and to encourage education.

I don't see young mothers disciplining their children like it use to be or spending a lot of time with them. We watched our children. I believe that they love them but they are too loose with them. Being a mother has taught me compassion, patience, how to love and be understanding. Raising my kids has been the most gratifying part of my life.

Jonette N. Arms
My mother taught me so many important lessons: to be kind, resilient, to love my children, to be a good money manager, to speak up for what I want and need, and to know I can accomplish anything.

I admire her sense of resilience most. She is a loving and kind person. She took care of my children when I went back to school as a young divorced mother. Mama got them dressed, fed them, helped them with homework, took them to school and to extracurricular activities. She did whatever was needed and made a challenging situation easy for me, since I never had to worry.

Growing up, I resented, challenged and even rebelled against my mother's strict rules. During my teen years, I even thought that I hated her. I finally realized that everything she did for me was because she loved and wanted to protect me. It is hilarious because I am so much like her now. I raised my children similar to how Mama raised me. Nicole, 26, and Earl, 24, are kind, gentle and generous. I learned that my mother had a lot of wisdom and if I had listened, I would have not had to 'buy' so many lessons. Mama and I are good friends now. My children often remind me that I am just like their grandmother. One time we even bought each other the same greeting card --it was about being best friends.

I admire so many qualities about my mother. As children although she worked second shift, when we arrived home from school there was ALWAYS a fully cooked meal on the stove for us to eat. She was the first of her siblings to live in Milwaukee. She took them in, one by one, as they moved here to create an independent life for themselves. For several years, my mother was the primary caregiver for my grandmother until she passed. Mama is a caregiver at heart. If I drop by unexpectedly, she quickly goes into the kitchen (even against my wishes) and whips up a quick meal. She opens her house to everyone for most holidays. Momma always makes extra sweet potato pies so me, my sister, and all the grandchildren can take one.

We have grown to accept and respect each other's opinions and agree to disagree on some issues. Because of our generational differences, we sometimes see things through different lenses. I realize that she is wise and has great instincts.

Tremerell J. Robinson echoes many of the sentiments expressed about her mother as does her sister Jonette including lessons learned. I admire how Mama takes care of business. My relationship with my mother now is a true friendship.
I took for granted the things that she told and taught me when I was young. As I matured, I realized how important those things were. Now when she gives advice, even though I'm capable of making my own decisions, I think about what she says.

When I was a youth, I thought that my mother was an old fashion country girl that did not know much about being young or city life and was just being strict because she didn't want me to do anything. As I got older, my mother explained to me why she raised me the way she did. It took time for me to mature to realize that just loved me and wanted to protect me. I'm married and have one daughter. I applied just about everything that my mother taught me in raising her but with a few tweaks.

Tremerel has been a licensed cosmetology instructor since 1997. She owns/operators the Ivory Coast Hair Salon and is an independent Avon representative.

Fighting Governor's Budget Cuts, The Threat to Unions... and The Upward Mobility of Women and Blacks — By Dian Palmer(March/April 2011)

Dian PalmerDian Palmer, RN, is President of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, and President of the Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare.

African Americans in Wisconsin should clearly understand the impacts of Governor Scott Walker's attacks on workers and the consequences for our communities.

In Wisconsin, nearly one in four African American workers is unemployed. Black unemployment (24 percent) is more than three times the rate of whites (7 percent), far exceeding the national black unemployment rate. One in three of Wisconsin's black workers is underemployed ("The State of Working Wisconsin," by the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, COWS).

Many women of color are familiar with inequities in workplace. Nationally, black women in the public sector make significantly less than everyone else with a median wage of $15.50 compared to the sector's overall median wage of $18.38 (white men make $21.24), according to the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. And, because women comprise 52 percent of state-level public sector jobs and 61 percent of local-level public sector jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Walker's cuts hurt African American women and families beyond the pocket book. The governor's extreme cuts will severely limit essential healthcare programs that families depend on, including Medicaid, BadgerCare, and FamilyCare. His proposals would eliminate Medicaid coverage for 70,000 Wisconsinites and restrict benefits for thousands of others.

Having the right to negotiate things like decent, livable wages, affordable healthcare, and secure retirement benefits is the difference between gaining workplace equality for women or more social and economic discrimination. The bottom line: Walker's actions impede the progress of women—specifically African American women.

SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin—more than 15,000 healthcare workers and providers at hundreds of health care facilities like clinics, hospitals nursing and private homes across the state—believes that attacks on workers are attacks on everyone: children, families, workers, and our future.
We challenge all working women, both union and non-union, in Wisconsin and around the country to be a part of the solution and a voice to be reckoned with.

Plan to attend upcoming events like public hearings, rallies, vigils, or town hall meetings in your area (visit www.seiuhcwi.org and look for Solidarity Events for Wisconsin Workers).

UnionS And Upward Mobility for Black and Women (March/April 2011)

By John Schmitt
A report using national data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) demonstrates how unionization raises the wages of the typical woman worker by 11.2% compared to their non-union peers. The study goes on to show that unionization also increases the likelihood that a woman worker will have health insurance and a pension and notes that union membership results in health care and pension gains on par with the gains of a college education. Black workers in unions in otherwise low-wage occupations earned, on average, 14 percent more than their non-union counterparts. Unionized black workers in low-wage occupations were also 20 percentage points more likely than comparable non-union workers to have employer-provided health insurance, and 28 percentage points more likely to have a pension plan.ur findings demonstrate that black workers who are able to bargain collectively earn more and are more likely to have benefits associated with good jobs.

Demise Of Collective Bargaining, Cuts In Health Care, Assault On Paid Sick Days And Family Leave … Consequences Of Governor's Budget Cuts (March/April 2011)

Ellen Bravo- Ellen Bravo, Executive Director, Family Values @ Work Consortium

What do the cuts in Governor Walker's budget and the array of proposals being hurried through the legislature mean for Black women? In a word: disaster. Whether it's the demise of collective bargaining for public employees, cuts in health care and welfare, or the assault on paid sick days and family leave, Black women are in for a disproportionate share of the misery being doled out in Madison.

Start with collective bargaining. Nationally, the public sector is the number two employer for African-American women. On average, women at the state and local levels account for 52% and 61% respectively of public sector employees.

For women of color in particular, unionized public sector jobs have meant a road out of poverty and a life not of luxury, but at least dignity. Thirty percent of African American women in Wisconsin live in poverty, double the overall national rate. Unions have been one of the most effective tools for fighting this inequality.
Numerous studies by now have discounted the myth that public sector workers are overpaid. In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, when controlling for education and other factors, Wisconsin state and local government employees earn 4.8 percent less on average per year than their private sector counterparts.

Who is paid better than their private sector counterparts are women in the bottom rung jobs – food service workers, clericals and others who through their union have living wages and benefits. Collective bargaining has meant a revaluing of those jobs which have long been low-wage not because the women in them are unskilled, but because their skills have been trivialized and underpaid.

In Wisconsin, two fields that fit this description are child care providers and home health care workers, again jobs disproportionately filled by women of color. These workers in recent years won the right to bargain with the state – a right now being demolished by the Walker administration.

The union advantage doesn't end with pay. Patty Yunk, director of public policy at AFSCME District Council 48, is quoted as saying, "When you're unionized, you're equalized." Through their unions, women are also more likely to have maternity leave, paid sick time, and protections against sexual harassment and unfair job assignments.

Working women throughout the state will suffer as a result of cuts being proposed for state insurance programs for women and children, the end to funding for family planning services for low-income women, and undoing the requirement that insurance policies that cover prescriptions include contraceptives. The fact that these programs help prevent unwanted pregnancies show how the zeal for budget cutting at the expense of working and poor people trumps rationality as well as fairness.

In an especially mean-spirited kick at the poor, Scott Walker has also proposed a $20 per month cut to the paltry grants under Wisconsin Works. The current grant was badly in need of a raise; it's been frozen since 1997.

And the war on workers doesn't end there. Recently the Court of Appeals upheld the Milwaukee paid sick days ordinance, passed by nearly 70 percent of the voters in November 2008 and delayed for more than two years by a lawsuit from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. The Republican-led legislature is trying to steal this victory with a bill already passed by the state Senate and heading to the Assembly. Black women are much less likely to have paid sick days on their jobs and would benefit most from this new workplace standard.

Republicans are also trying to gut Wisconsin's Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), by ending all provisions that are more generous than the federal law. That means taking away the right to substitute any paid time a worker has earned for the unpaid leave, and cutting out some part-time and rural workers.
State Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay) noted how this bill would add to the economic inequality in our state. "The have-nots will be women and children," Pasch said, "while the haves will be men and big business."

When the Governor and legislature stripped collective bargaining from the budget, they acknowledged what most of Wisconsites had already figured out: this fight was never about a fiscal crisis. It's about a raw attempt to consolidate power in the hands of Walker's wealthy corporate backers.
Black women are among those with the most at stake.

Ellen Bravo is an activist for working women. She started working for 9 to 5, National Association for Working Women in 1982, founded the Milwaukee chapter and served as the national director until l2004. She currently teaches Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Bravo is Executive Director of Family Values @ Work Consortium, a network of 15 state coalitions that work for policies such as paid sick days and affordable family leave.

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