Opinion

The Great Debate

‘I sat there every day and cried before going to work’

Editor’s note: This week, Reuters Opinion is publishing five excerpts – one each day – from D.W. Gibson’s new book, Not Working, an oral history of the recession. Gibson spent months traveling across America talking to people who had been laid off.

Teresa Baseler is 55, and has two grown daughters and a husband in Omaha. This is her story.

I worked at M. for 31 years. So yep, I just kept moving up and moving up and doing very well.

Most of the stuff that I did I was trained on the job. I knew that if my job ever ended I didn’t have a college degree. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make the money elsewhere.

I was a senior buyer. I bought all of their furniture, all of their equipment. I traveled around the country for them when they had to open up new facilities and made sure that all the furniture got installed, things like that. I had a team of three.

‘I have filled out resumes for about 380 to 390 positions’

Editor’s note: This week, Reuters Opinion is publishing five excerpts – one each day – from D.W. Gibson’s new book, Not Working, an oral history of the recession. Gibson spent months traveling across America talking to people who had been laid off.

Dominick Brocato is 58 and has lived in Kansas City his entire life. He was laid off in 2010. This is his story.

For the last 20 years, I’ve worked for D. Systems. In 2009, our existing chief operating officer had made the decision he was going to retire at the end of the year, so a new chief operating officer was brought in. He had different views towards how things should be run. We knew that in the operation that he came from, which was in Boston, he had had 12 layoffs in the last six years. So every six months, he had layoffs. But we felt confident, because our president had said we were never going to have a layoff. And we very much believed in what he had told us.

‘The only crime that I committed’

Editor’s note: This week, Reuters Opinion is publishing five excerpts – one each day – from D.W. Gibson’s new book, Not Working, an oral history of the recession. Gibson spent months traveling across America talking to people who had been laid off.

Today’s story is Christine Zika’s. Christine is a veteran and small-business owner mostly from St. Louis and the surrounding towns. She is 40 and married to an electrical engineer.

Years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had an expectation of the life I was going to lead. And that life included being in public relations and communications. Instead, I went into the Army National Guard. After two years in college, I went there, and I served 13 years total, having served three deployments at different times. I served in Desert Storm. I also served during Operation Joint Endeavor, which was the Bosnian conflict, and then I also went to Kosovo.

‘I felt guilty for taking unemployment’

Editor’s note: This week, Reuters Opinion is publishing five excerpts – one each day – from D.W. Gibson’s new book, Not Working, an oral history of the recession. Gibson spent months traveling across America talking to people who had been laid off.

Today’s entry is Jessica Smith’s. Jessica, 32, was born and raised in Alabama. After stints in other states (New York and Virginia) and another country (Sweden), she moved back to Alabama in 2010 with her fiancé, Nick, and this is where they’ve made a home with their newborn.

Jessica has two master’s degrees. She has written for several years, mostly poetry, with some significant publications, but she’s on hiatus these days: “I have a job and a kid, and it’s just not going to happen.” Recently she was hired as a librarian at a nearby private boarding school.

‘If I can’t do that, then I’m worthless’

Editor’s note: This week, Reuters Opinion is going to be publishing five excerpts – one each day – from D.W. Gibson’s new book, Not Working, an oral history of the recession. Gibson spent months traveling across America talking to people who had been laid off.

Today’s entry is Heather Dupree’s. Heather is a 38-year-old who lives in Marietta, Georgia. She grew up in Miami and went to Florida International University. Her dad worked for Pan Am, and her parents relocated to Atlanta when the company was acquired by Delta. After college, Heather followed her parents to Georgia. She shares a home in a wooded neighborhood with her partner, Leslie, and Leslie’s sixth-grade daughter, Gabby, from a previous relationship.

This is Heather’s story.

I actually went to school for a couple different things; I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. Originally, I wanted to teach, so I have a minor in education. And then I decided late that I wanted to get into computers. So I got my bachelor’s in communications with a bunch of computer classes underneath it, and I started doing websites when I was in college.

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