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Many women who live in slum ghettos work as domestics in the homes of white persons in other neighborhoods.1 In Cleveland, the Commission heard Mrs. Geraldine Roberts describe their condition.
Mrs. Roberts-herself a domestic worker since the age of eight 62. had attempted to organize domestics in Cleveland. She testified that Negro women become domestic workers for various reasons, including lack of training for other types of work and discrimination against Negroes who migrate to the city and cannot find other employment even though they may be qualified. In addition, she said: "Some people just don't like to get welfare so they rather take a chance trying to work, even though they know it's not much security." » 63 She suggested that since domestic workers are not covered by minimum wage laws, employers pay them as little as possible.
Mrs. Roberts estimated that the average domestic worker's salary in Cleveland was $35-$40 per week, but she added that it was quite normal for women to work for $25. Asked how many hours a week this work involved, she replied:
Sometimes you just stay until you are told to go
home.... Usually, they ask for five days or five and a
She said that at the end of the month, when her rent is paid, she "sometimes [has] no more than a couple of dollars left." "
The low pay is accompanied by lack of even the most elementary security. Many domestic workers don't pay Social Security "because the pay is so low." They receive no sick or vacation pay, and have difficulty obtaining credit.
Domestic workers meet large obstacles in trying to improve their condition. Efforts to organize meet employer resistance; Mrs. Roberts testified that she was fired when she attempted to unionize other workers and many fear the same fate. Individual efforts such as attending night school after work also are difficult to sustain:
Often, we attempt night school but then if the employer
Residents of slum ghettos often are exploited as a result of their race and poverty. For example, because racial discrimination limits the supply of housing available to Negroes, landlords can and do charge
them artificially high prices for inferior housing. Mrs. Velma Woods, the second Negro to move into the Clevelander, an apartment building in Hough, testified that when she moved in she paid $104 a month for three and a half rooms. This was more rent, she stated, than white tenants were paying for apartments of the same size:
Well, the white neighbors had been living there 25 or 30 years, and they didn't want to move and they said they never paid over $60 a month for no apartment in there. The largest apartment was renting for $60 a month. He said, "You colored people should get together and do something about it." At that time Cleveland was overcrowded and there was nowhere for colored people to live. A lot of people wanted a decent place to live. Because they lack ready cash, slum residents often are forced to seek credit at exorbitant rates in order to purchase necessary items. Several witnesses confirmed the statement of a Negro pastor in Newark that people in the ghetto
... are exploited by the merchants . . . . They cannot
Similarly, Mrs. Friels told the Indiana State Advisory Committee that because welfare mothers in Gary cannot get credit from large chain stores to purchase such necessary items as a gas heater, they generally have to patronize small furniture stores which "charge you twice the thing they cost." And Mrs. Lenoir said:
Just last night I went to price a used refrigerator at the
Exploitation assumes other forms. Welfare mothers in Cleveland and Gary said that merchants raised prices when welfare checks were issued. Mrs. Ella Kershaw in Cleveland stated that prices usually drop near the end of the month when the welfare money has been spent." Mrs. King told the Commission that stores usually run sales at the time of the month when the welfare money has been exhausted and suspend the sales on the day the welfare checks come due.73
Business and Property
Economic conditions in the slums make it difficult to own or maintain property. Mrs. Genevieve Jefferson testified that after her neighborhood in San Francisco had shifted from white to predominantly Negro, her neighbor
... came over quite upset one day. Her insurance had
Similarly, many insurance companies will not insure businesses in slum areas." Lack of insurance depresses property maintenance and business investments.
The owner of the Alhambra apartment house in Cleveland testified that obtaining insurance was one of his major problems in operating the building." Testifying before the 1966 riot in Cleveland's Hough area, Mr. Thorington described his problems in attempting to insure his grocery store in Hough:
My first year in business, I obtained insurance at a reason-
Obtaining insurance is not the only problem of the small businessman in a slum area. Mr. Thorington described the credit problems of a small businessman in Hough:
[T]he primary problem is always financing. Every bus-
deteriorated area, runs into financial problems at one time or another and it is necessary to obtain a quick small loan.T Loans through Federal programs take too long to be processed, according to Mr. Thorington:
I think the need is for a type of agency where a merchant,
Because Mr. Thorington's store is located in a slum, he has difficulty obtaining credit although he, in turn, must extend credit to his customers. He testified:
Credit for any merchant in an area of this kind is essen-
Mr. Thorington testified that three out of five customers do pay their bills but with the other two, "you are stuck":
It is a hard thing with credit because here is a person who
The next month they will come in and the same story,
In San Francisco, Dr. Goodlett, owner of a Negro newspaper, was asked what factors impede the growth of Negro businesses:
Well, Negro business in the main, as other forms of busi-