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For Lowest-Paid Workers, Pink Slip Is Passport to Oblivion

June 28, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ Gwendolyn Dicks, once homeless and now living with friends, thought she was getting her life back together, thanks in part to a $454-a-week job as a hospital dietary aide.

But Dicks is about to become one of 10,000 workers laid off by a city in fiscal crisis. And she fears that two years of struggle to tuck away enough money to rent an apartment and regain custody of her 6-year-old son may be crushed by New York City’s desperate efforts to make up a $3.5 billion budget shortfall by Monday.

Dicks, 28, has worked at Bronx Municipal Hospital the past two years, all the while ″trying to make arrangements, to save my money and get a place.″

She wants the home for her son, Branden. She lost custody of him during her days on the streets.

″I was homeless and a bum. He had to go into foster care,″ she said Thursday.

″I thought I would be getting him soon. But now that I have a pink slip I don’t know what will happen,″ Dicks said.

Todya is her last scheduled day on the job.

Dicks is one of more than 10,000 city workers scheduled to lose their jobs as Mayor David Dinkins struggles to balance the city’s budget by Monday, the start of a new fiscal year.

More than 850 of those employees, including Dicks, belong to Local 420, a 15,000-member union that represents the lowest paid of municipal workers: nurses’ aides, housekeeping aides, laundry workers and technicians.

Union leaders have been negotiating with the Dinkins administration to halt the layoffs and find other ways to erase the deficit. The City Council, the governor and state legislative leaders are working to the same end.

But they may not succeed in time for Dicks and the others with pink slips, and as the deadline drew near this week, some expressed fears of becoming homeless or going on welfare.

Monique Jaysura, a 30-year-old dietary aide at Harlem Hospital said she desperately needs her $473 a week take-home pay to support her 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter.

Jaysura, who grew up on welfare, said she’s in no hurry to return to the system she thought she had escaped.

″Now I have to go back to my childhood,″ she said. ″It’s rough, it’s so scary.″

Heber Odell Jones, a barber who has worked at Harlem Hospital for 25 years, also fears losing his apartment if he loses his $575-a-week job. He is hoping to win a transfer to another city hospital.

Jones, 56, said he also worries that his wife, a dietary aide at a private hospital, could also lose her job in these tight economic times.

″It would be very bad if both of us get laid off at the same time. I hope she is not,″ he said.

Dicks, meanwhile, hoped for an 11th-hour miracle that would save her job.

″I’m keeping the faith,″ she said hoarsely. ″I’m trying.″

06-28-91 0254EDT

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