Landing a job isn’t the end of obstacles facing one Detroit mom

Last week, we introduced you to Fatima Mixon, a 36-year-old single mother in Detroit. She enrolled in a Focus: HOPE machinist program so she could one day support her three children and her disabled mother. Today, Lester Graham of Michigan Radio follows Mixon’s journey to find work.

If you live in Detroit, getting a job is just the first hurdle. Sometimes you have to be incredibly resourceful just to get to work.

After finishing her training at Focus: HOPE to become a machinist, Fatima Mixon did not find a job in the city of Detroit. But she did get a job in Warren.

She was put on the midnight to 8:00 a.m. shift. Shift work is the worst for people who need to take the bus to work. The buses don’t run overnight.

I got together for breakfast with Mixon recently after she got off work. She got really, really lucky in finding a way to get to work.

“Yes, I was able to purchase a car. My mom actually had some good fortune. She played the lottery and won. And what she did with her winnings is gave me the money for me to buy a car,” Mixon said.

Her mom won a couple thousand dollars. Fatima got a 2002 Buick Century for $1,500 to make the 20-mile drive to work.

Her machinist job is at the Chassix plant in Warren. Chassix supplies Ford, GM, and Chrysler with parts. Starting pay is $11 an hour, but Fatima gets a shift bonus of 30 cents an hour. Chassix employees also get medical, dental, and vision coverage. Fatima says she’s been volunteering for all the overtime she can, sometimes working seven days a week.

“I try to catch up on a few bills here and there,” she says. “But just to be able to do that, I’m okay. My daughter’s got a birthday coming up and so she’s so excited, like, ‘Mom, can you get me this; can you get me that; can you get me this.’ So, we’ll see how that works out for her.”
Over omelets and orange juice, we talked about how her job was going.

“I like it. I like it. I do. Actually, I’m doing everything that they taught us at Focus: HOPE,” she say, smiling.

Training pays off

Mary Sheppard is a human resource manager with the company. She says the students come in with the required skills, they catch on quickly, and they usually work out well.

“Have we had 100 percent luck with all of the employees? No,” Sheppard says. “But, I think for the most part I think it’s a wonderful program. And they’re really good to work with. And, again, it’s nice to have people come in with some sort of skills.”

There’s only one problem: Chassix, with seven plants in Michigan and others around the world, has filed for bankruptcy. The company is controlled by Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores. Reports indicate the Chassix plant will keep up production during the bankruptcy restructuring.

That should keep Fatima Mixon and 1,200 other Michigan workers on the job.

She says she’s optimistic everything will work out. She doesn’t want to think about going back on welfare. She says money is so tight she has to choose between paying the heat bill and paying rent.

“So, you know, sometimes things happen, you get evicted, have to go stay with someone else. And it gets hectic there because it’s less space than you already had. And you’re intruding on somebody else’s space and that strains relationships and things of that nature. It’s pretty bad. It’s pretty bad,” her voice trailing off.

Instead of worrying about losing her job, she’s making plans. She’s thinking about her kids and their education. She’s thinking about not needing her mom to help out with expenses. How her mom might be able to get her own place.

At 36 years old and with three kids, Fatima Mixon got the training she needed, got a job, and is grabbing the future. With more jobs requiring more advanced skills, it’s the kind of story many Detroit residents will have to pursue if the neighborhoods are to share in the prosperity that much of Detroit’s downtown is already experiencing.

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Critical eye
Tue, 03/24/2015 - 10:58am
"With more jobs requiring more advanced skills, it's the kind of story many Detroit residents will have to pursue if the neighborhoods are to share in the prosperity that much of Detroit's downtown is already experiencing." This statement implies that 1) the nature of employment opportunities is preternaturally determined -- a fixed entity over which policymakers, business owners and the investor class have no control (false) and 2) that downtown Detroit owes its prosperity to skills such as those Fatima developed in the Focus: HOPE training program (also false). Downtown Detroit owes its new-found "prosperity" to a flawed political and economic system that permitted decades of racist policies, divestment and segregation to obliterate the city economically, then used the city's vulnerability as a pretext to suspend democracy and auction off its assets to the highest bidders. So long as we prioritize quarterly profits over basic social rights -- so long as we view subsistence wages and residential segregation and mortgage discrimination and the destruction of community schools as the inevitable products of an invisible hand rather than the logical consequences of our policies and practices -- the chasm between Downtown Detroit and many of Detroit's neighborhoods will continue to grow. When winning the lottery is a requirement to work a midnight shift 20 miles away, and the wages earned working that midnight shift 20 miles away are not adequate to reliably cover basic living expenses, the root cause of the problem does not reside within the individual; it resides within the rules and boundaries of our system.
Cindy Estrada
Sun, 03/29/2015 - 11:13am
At 11.30/hr workers are forced to work full time and still have to turn to assistance while CEO's make 296 times the average worker! This is shameful and we can do better where every stakeholder wins, the company, the worker and the comment!
Tue, 03/24/2015 - 2:56pm
Until there's some real public transportation in the tri-county area the job market will continue to be depressed.
Wed, 03/25/2015 - 7:25am
I applaud Ms. Mixon's effort for getting an education and trained in specialize manufacturing job. Just a couple of quick observations. *mass transit has always been an issue for the past 7 decades or more because of the auto industry. We wanted cars not buses. *Manufacturing jobs, particularly at smaller independent companies are more concentrated in the suburbs than the city. Therefore, transportation is critical. *Again, the common denominator is - Where is Daddy? It is always a mother with multiple children and grandma. Where are the Men?! Poverty among Black Married People is less than 10%. Yet, decade after decade ~80% of Black babies are born to unwed mothers in poverty already. Poverty breeds Poverty.
Medgar L. Clark...
Wed, 03/25/2015 - 5:11pm
Once again qualified Detroiters who want a good paying job don't have a reliable public transit system to get them jobs outside of the city. When former Mayor Bing gutted DDOT he hampered economic development as well as workforce development. It's now time to find out what Detrioters want and need in skills development to obtain employment that offers a living wage. Medgar L. Clark - Detroit
Sun, 03/29/2015 - 6:02pm
Public transportation has not alway been as bad as it is today. Neither Dave Bing nor Mike Duggan have economic development expertise. The system is so terrible. The issue is getting from point A to Point B within the City of Detroit, let alone the suburbs. I live Downtown and attempted to catch a bus from one side of Downtown to another and it was extremely late. No High growth city exists without public transportation as it is the economic engine. If we every get those in Detroit economic development to understand public transportation' function then we can see Detroit grow for all people. Ida Byrd-Hill Uplift, Inc. BA Economics University of Michigan MBA Jack Welch Management Institute