“Good jobs make a difference for our families.”
Thresa Thomas remembers how much her father loved working in construction with LAUSD. She remembers how he talked about laying the concrete steps at University High and being so proud of the finished product that he etched his initials in the cement. And she remembers when he told her, “You should get a job with the District. They are good jobs.”
Her father, Matthew, worked with LAUSD for more than 40 years. And during that time, he not only worked in a job he loved, he was also able to raise his family with decent wages and benefits. “We had a happy and stable home life,” says Thresa, who is herself a graduate of LAUSD schools. “And he wanted the same for me.”
Thresa followed her father’s advice and took a job in food service with the District. But in the more than two decades she’s worked in LAUSD’s cafeterias, she says, it’s become a very different job than the one her father recommended.
Thresa struggled to raise her daughter, Tejennia, on low wages. When her daughter was growing up, Thresa worked two jobs – as a cafeteria worker during the day and in a local department store in the evenings and weekends. She remembers Tejennia would often get up from bed at 10 p.m. to give her mom a good night kiss when Thresa got home after a long day. Thresa recognizes her daughter lived a very different childhood than her own. “I wish I could have spent more time with her,” says Thresa.
Today, after nearly two decades with LAUSD, Thresa says her father would have probably told her to get a different job. “My wages have not kept up with the cost of living,” she says. “I live paycheck-to-paycheck.” She must constantly juggle to pay for rent, her gas bill, food, and her phone and bus pass. She is always on the lookout for discounts and is grateful for the low income rates she is eligible for on her utilities.
Her usual budget for food is $20 per week. “Right now, I’m living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, soup and meals I get at my union,” she says. Any emergencies or changes in her budget can completely unravel her life. Two years ago her landlord raised the rent by $100. “It was too much and I had to move,” says Thresa. And she must often go into debt just to pay for basic necessities. “I’ve had to go to loan sharks to pay for food and bills, or I pawn my jewelry.”
Like her father, Thresa loves her work with LAUSD, but she recognizes that it’s not the same job it used to be. “It was more stable back then … My hope for the future is that we will have more good jobs. It makes a difference for
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