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Just landing a job is the first of many obstacles for this Detroiter

Mar 20, 2015

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, Michigan. 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 Fatima recently after she got off work. Fatima 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 explained.

Fatima Mixon's mother won $2,000 in the lottery. She gave Fatima enough to buy a 2002 Buick Century in order to drive to work.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

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. 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,” she said.

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 said, smiling.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Chassix has hired a couple of dozen Focus: HOPE students over the years.

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. 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,” Sheppard said.

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.

Support for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative on Michigan Radio comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism's Michigan Reporting Initiative, and the Ford Foundation.