ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE, two American families, both doing their best to hang onto the American dream. But nearly every day is a struggle. Will they make it? For the last five years, correspondent Bill Moyers has been documenting their lives, "Living on the Edge."

MARK BELLING: (on radio) Good afternoon, Milwaukee! The evolution of your own work career are you doing what you thought you'd be doing? What do you think you're going to be doing in the future?

GOVERNOR TOMMY THOMPSON:(on radio) Today our state stands at the forefront of our nation. Our state is in a strong position to meet the challenges of this new era.

1st RADIO NEWS REPORTER: A new survey of the Milwaukee area reflects what many work-a-day employees already know too well: Prices keep going up while paychecks stay the same.

2nd RADIO NEWS REPORTER: Manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin have declined by 2 percent over the past year compared with a 3.1 percent decrease nationally.

TELEVISION REPORTER: Years ago. if you wanted a small engine, you got at Briggs & Stratton. Slowly but surely, that has changed in the past 10 years. Foreign manufacturers have carved out a respectable share of the small engine market.

TONY NEUMANN: Are you going to call him back?

TERRY NEUMANN: Am I going to call him back? Well, yeah. I'm going to have to call him back.

TONY NEUMANN: Well, you talked to him before.


TONY NEUMANN: And I told them I don't care. If they want to foreclose, they can foreclose on --if we don't have the money, we don't have the money. I would prefer you to call him. other than it being me.

TERRY NEUMANN: Here we go.

BILL MOYERS: In 1991, Terry and Tony Neumann were on the verge of losing their home. They couldn't make their mortgage payments because Tony had lost his good paying factory job at Briggs & Stratton.

TONY NEUMANN: [on the phone] I did send a S1,000 check in a few weeks back, but the check was sent back to me with a letter stating, 'We will not accept a partial payment.' And when I tried to explain that over the phone, somebody called -- I don't really think of that as a partial payment. I think of that as a basic payment and a good gesture on trying to get caught up. Right now we're going through a hard time. My husband's out of work. He went to school and he's looking for a job and I'm basically just trying to buy a little time so we can get on our feet again --you know, so we can get up. I would think that this is just going to be a temporal thing, not a permanent thing, and I really don't want to lose my house. Or are you just trying to tell me that you have to foreclose on the house if I don't have that full amount? You would recommend it.

TONY NEUMANN: Is he putting this on paper? I want to know, is he putting this on paper? Dear?

BILL MOYERS: Tony is one of about 50,000 factory workers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, whose lives have been shaken by an economic earthquake that has changed the American workplace. Good-paying jobs are heading south or out of the country and workers like Tony Neumann are searching desperately for new jobs that will support their families.

TONY NEUMANN: I've applied over at grocery stores, hardware stores. There's-


TONY NEUMANN: -Hardee's-


TONY NEUMANN: -super America, Pizza Hut, Wal-Mart, Sam's. They're willing to pay me $6, six dollars and a quarter. Little do they know I need to live, also.

JACKIE STANLEY: When the doors at Briggs closed on us and... and they handed us our pink slips, I knew that I'm out here. It's sink or swim.

BILL MOYERS: Jackie Stanley also worked at Briggs & Stratton. Milwaukee's largest private employer. Before her layoff, she was making about $32,000 a year. Jackie's husband, Claude, was laid off from another large Milwaukee manufacturer.

CLAUDE STANLEY: You got to look at it on the real side. I cannot live like I was making $20 an hour, okay? That money is not there. So you might as well get it in your mind it's not there no more. So, okay, bring yourself down.

BILL MOYERS: In the early '90s, families like the Stanley's and Neumann's were thrown into an emerging new economy built on light manufacturing and service jobs. It was a time when unemployment hit record lows. But many of the new jobs offered only part-time work and no benefits and they paid lower wages.

TONY NEUMANN: You figure it out-gas, electric, telephone bill. Plus food for a family. You figure it out. Minimum wage will not make it.

BILL MOYERS: Over the last five years, we have followed the Neumann's and the Stanley's as they adjust to the local realities of the new global economy. We met them in 1991. We came back in '93 and returned in '95.

NICOLE STANLEY: [1991] It freaked me out when Mom said, "You-your dad's been laid off." And I was, like, "-Nah! Dad wasn't laid off." And I started thinking, you know, at the time. I was going to a private school and I'm sitting there going, "Please, my dad's not laid off!" Found out Dad was laid off. He took this lower paying job and then Mom had the load on her. Then Mom got laid off. The income just went shoof!

I don't think any other family could survive. Our family is fortunate. Keith is up under me. He's 14 years old. Klaudale and Claude is the set of twins. They're 11 years old and my little sister, Omega, is 10. My father's been laid off for five years. He went into waterproofing.

CLAUDE STANLEY: When I got laid off. they wanted me to go down to Welfare, but I could not stand in that line. I said, "This is not me. This is not me." They wanted to give me food stamps. I said, "This ain't me. I don't want no food stamps." I said, "I got my strength, my health. I will find me a job." And I found me a job.

BILL MOYERS: Claude Stanley found a job waterproofing basements. It paid $6.50 an hour, about a third of what he had been making.

NICOLE STANLEY: My mother, she got her real estate license.

JACKIE STANLEY: The reality is that it's rough. And I'm always smiling, in spite of electric bills, gas bills, telephones. They're due just like anybody else's, but I can't afford to say, you know... I'm having a rough time. Please buy this house." No.

[on the phone] Hi. Joe. Yeah, this is Jacqueline Stanley from Homestead.

BILL MOYERS: When the Stanley's had factory jobs, they took home over $60,000 between them in a good year and that included health benefits. That security is gone.

NICOLE STANLEY: Mom's real estate is tough on her. I've seen her try to wheel and deal deals. They seemed so good and, at the last minute, they fall apart.

JACKIE STANLEY: Tell her to call me because we wrote this for-the listing is for September. It's already November.

NICOLE STANLEY: That falling apart is our mortgage. That falling apart is the car notes. And to someone else, it might not seem important that they decide not to buy the house. But for us it's a matter not of life and death, but it's a matter of light and gas. And that's scary.

BILL MOYERS: When we met Tony in 1991, he believed retraining would give him skills for a better job. He'd just spent a year in school, getting perfect scores in pneumatics and hydraulics. But when he finished there was still no work. So he was picking up odd jobs to help support the family.

TONY NEUMANN: I've tried doing things. I work in the garage on woodworking things when I get angry and that helps, once in a while. It's real frustrating not being able to support my family the way I used to. It's really frustrating.

BILL MOYERS: The Neumanns have three children - Karissa, Adam and Daniel, who was just about to start third grade when we met him.

TERRY NEUMANN: Daniel was doing very well before Tony was laid off, but with the tensions around the house, he kind of withdrew a little bit. Children do notice the tension. They do notice these things. They're not stupid. They can hear Mom and Dad getting upset. It upsets them. They've made comments to like, "Mom, let's sell the-the book shelf." They've got little baseball cards-"Mom, I'll sell these," and that hurts because they're-they're willing to sell their baseball cards to help their parents out.

BILL MOYERS: With her husband, Tony, out of work, Terry Neumann began looking for ways to make money. With $1,300 borrowed from a relative, she purchased beauty products that she tried to resell door to door.

TERRY NEUMANN: And then we need a business card to call Mommy up.

BILL MOYERS:For someone with no sales experience it was risky, but for Terry it made more sense than taking a full-time job.

TERRY NEUMANN: You can't afford to work, you know, getting $6 an hour and expect to pay for child care, you know, $1.50 an hour per child. I have three children. So I says, "I'm going have to find something else I can do." And when someone introduced me to this business, I decided to say, "Hey, you know, that's worth my while. I can I can make it..." you know? Look in the mirror and feel your face and say, well, you know, "It's softer."

CUSTOMER: It's softer, yeah.

TERRY NEUMANN: The complexion, the color-yeah.

KEITH STANLEY: You talk to your friends, they always say, "Well, I'm going doing this this summer. Well, how about you?" And you're, like, "Well, I'm doing-working." that's all you can say right now is, "I'm working." And they're always asking, "Why are you working? Why don't you go out and have fun like the rest of the kids do?" You say you can't. You just can't do it. You have to go out there and help your mom and dad.

BILL MOYERS: Fourteen-year-old Keith Stanley and his twin brothers, Claude, Jr., and Klaudale, started a business in 1991. They called it the Three Sons Lawn Care Service.

BILL MOYERS: How much money would you like to make when you grow up?

CLAUDE STANLEY, Jr.: Probably about a hundred million. Something like that. Three hundred million. Something, like that.

BILL MOYERS: Do you think you will?


DALE STANLEY: I've seen my mom on the phone, talking to the bill collectors, asking them when they would take-the mortgage company, when they were about to take our house. She was pleading with the mortgage company. She asked the-the bill collectors to keep the light and sometimes the gas on and that makes me want to do more, a lot more.

BILL MOYERS: The Stanley's live in an African-American neighborhood traditionally supported by manufacturing jobs. But as the jobs disappeared, housing values fell and so did real estate commissions. Jackie wanted to sell in other neighborhoods, but she ran into resistance.

JACKIE STANLEY: It was on the market for a year and didn't sell.

WILLIAM BERLAND: Owner, Homestead Realty: It's because they didn't have somebody as good as you.


WILLIAM BERLAND: People of color really have a much more difficult time, in our business making a living than white people. It may be a situation where she may call for a showing and not get the courtesy of a call back. Maybe her client that she takes in to a mortgage lender has a much more difficult time, even if their credit is good -- getting the mortgage.

JACKIE STANLEY: All right, fax it to me. I can't sell suburbs. I can't sell the most affluent areas here and that hurts. But they'll call me for central city.

TONY NEUMANN: A little bit or a lot?

KARISSA NEUMANN: A little bit, please.

TERRY NEUMANN: Normally, I make good meals-the meat and the vegetables and salads and all the fixings. You know, it's not a large amount, but they're good, well balanced meals. And now that I can't make well-balanced meals-I mean, that's-it gets to the point where you sit there and think, Oh, my God. what am I going to make for dinner tonight?" you know, and it's just emotionally exhausting.

TONY NEUMANN: You know what would be good on this?



TERRY NEUMANN: Oh, well. We don't have cheese. I would like garlic bread, too.

FOOD PANTRY WORKER: You get the peanut butter and the honey. And this is the flour and I'm giving you one pound of butter...

TERRY NEUMANN: I don't like having to go and ask and say, "I have no food in the house. Can you help me out?" Makes me feel very uncomfortable. I'd rather be on the giving side than the receiving.

FOOD PANTRY WORKER: You want to pack up the commodities. I don't know, if you're going to be using all of these or not, Terry. They have peanut butter, flour. You can take what you like or-

TERRY NEUMANN: We do a lot of baking and the kids eat a lot of peanut butter.

FOOD PANTRY WORKER: Then we have some pork here. I understand that if you put it over noodles or rice and maybe add a little onion that it's quite palatable.

TERRY NEUMANN: [to Tony] What are you doing today?

TONY NEUMANN: Fixing the doors and the screens.

TERRY NEUMANN: And the kitchen door!

TONY NEUMANN: Yeah, I'll think about it. I've been getting very angry lately. I've been losing my temper quite a bit. I don't know what it is. I'm-tried to get it under control, but it-, it's just really frustrating. You got all these pressures on you and you don't have no way to release it, really.

BILL MOYERS: How do you deal with this pressure, the anger and the-

TERRY NEUMANN: I can't. It's very difficult.

TONY NEUMANN: Yeah, our marriage is really on the rocks. This is a really difficult time. This is a real difficult time. I've been thinking about divorce now for a while. '


TONY NEUMANN: I can't deal with the situation, I -I 'm just having a real hard time dealing with it.

BILL MOYERS: So divorce is an easier way out?

TONY NEUMANN: Yeah, I think so, I-I don't know what to do anymore, I'm really at a loss.

BILL MOYERS: You feel guilty?

TONY NEUMANN: Yeah, I do, I feel I should be supporting my family,

BILL MOYERS: You think he really wants a divorce or is this just an escape?

TERRY NEUMANN: I think it's an escape and I just think he figures it's an easy way out. But really, the problems are still going to be there because he's still going to have to support us and I feel it's going to be worse. I just feel it's just-just a tough time and if we can just get through this, you know, then-then we'll be back to the life that we had before--

MINISTER: Good morning, everybody. We gather on this Sunday morning in faith to praise our triune God in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

BILL MOYERS: When we returned to Milwaukee in 1993, hope was in the air, -

BILL CLINTON: I, William Jefferson Clinton do solemnly swear -

JUSTICE: -that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.

BILL CLINTON: -that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States-

DALE STANLEY: From the way he ran his campaign, it was more like he would concentrate on America. The way he put it was that he wasn't going to send more jobs or factories out of the country and bring more in. And I guess that in the next four years, maybe we might have openings and maybe you might not have to film as many people in your-more-more people have jobs and-and things probably will work out.

BILL CLINTON: My fellow citizens-

DALE STANLEY:I think this president I think I can trust and relate to some, somehow.

KEITH STANLEY: Four more years. Four more years, buddy. You need to grow up a little bit because for me, I been there with Reagan, Bush and now Clinton. I'm not saying I don't trust presidents. It's that you say lot of stuff to get on top. Even if I was running for something, I'd say-I'd be, like, "everybody get free candy and everything," you know? So you say a lot of stuff to get on top, but it all comes down to what you're going to do when you get on top.

BILL CLINTON: To renew America we must revitalize our democracy.

JACKIE STANLEY: It's not so much up to just our president. I would love to say it's the president and that when he gets in office, my job will be secure and all, but I just don't feel it. As much as I'd like to say it, his name is not G-O-D, it's Clinton.

BILL CLINTON: -and see the promise of America. Americans deserve better and in this city today there are people who want to do better-

TERRY NEUMANN: Tony got a job, you know it was such a happy, day, you would not believe. I mean. We were, like, "Gee, if we had the money right now, we'd probably go and celebrate, but we don't, so we just" -you know, It was a real exciting day and it's like you wanted to get on the phone and say, "Oh my God, Tony got a job! Tony got a job!" You know? It was like winning the lottery, you know? I mean, you just-"Oh, he got a job!" After that, there was just a lot more tension just lifted off your shoulders.

MINISTER: I invited the Neumanns around the Lord's table use a year ago they may not have had as much to be thankful for, right? You didn't have a steady job though, did you?

TONY NEUMANN: That's a fact.

MINISTER: That's a fact. What is the fact today?

TONY NEUMANN:I have more than enough work.

MINISTER: More than enough work! God is with us!

TONY NEUMANN: It's just a real relief to be working. I have a sense of worth. It's a big relief to be able to know that I can support a family again. It's a big load off my shoulders.

KARISSA NEUMANN: More coffee for Daddy?

TONY NEUMANN:I'm still scared because of being laid off so many times. Some people do call me money-hungry because I eat up the overtime, but I've seen how a couple months without income can do to you. I won't feel safe enough until I have, like, $20,000 in the bank.

BILL MOYERS: Tony's new job paid $10 an hour, working the night shift in a small, non-union factory. Still months behind on the mortgage, he was working an exhausting amount of overtime to try and catch up.

TONY NEUMANN: The kids are off to school at 8:00 o'clock in the morning, so I can see them from 7:00 o'clock when they get up until 8:00 o'clock when they leave. And then I don't get home until 12:00 o'clock at night and they're already in bed sleeping.

It does bother me not to be able to see the kids as much as I used to. It'd bother me a lot. But at this point in time right now, having money coming in consistently is more important than spending time with my children all the time like I used to.

Can you make sure Daniel reads that book on the chemistry set real good?

BILL MOYERS: Terry and Tony's marriage survived, but there were still pressures. Tony's job offered limited potential and his health plan paid only part of his medical expenses, plus his long hours put a strain on the family.

TERRY NEUMANN: Come on, let's pray. Come on, come on, come on, come on! We are missing somebody. We're missing Tony. So a lot of times, we're here by ourselves and it gets kind of lonely because we have to do things just with the four of us and sometimes I feel like a single parent.

BILL MOYERS: Terry still found herself having to choose between making money and staying home with the kids. The choice for now was to bring in some extra income. Selling beauty products had wound up costing her money, so she took part-time work caring for an elderly woman. She left the kids with a relative.

In 1993, Claude, Sr., was still waterproofing basements.

CLAUDE STANLEY: I do my best. If I'm going to come out here and do a job, I want to make sure it's done right. And I don't care who works with me. We do it right if I'll be here half the night to get it done.

BILL MOYERS: He was now earning about $7 an hour, 50 cents more than in '9l.

CLAUDE STANLEY: Now I'm putting the longer hours in. You're getting money, but it's not that much, but you're getting longer hours. But you know, when you get home, you're tired. Yeah, we're tired. And you say, "What's the use?" you know.

JACKIE STANLEY: Why keep struggling?

CLAUDE STANLEY: Why keep going? But you got to say, "I'm going to make it. I'm going to-I'm going to make it." That door got to open up somewhere. It's got to open up somewhere.

BILL MOYERS: In 1993, the three sons were still in business: Keith Stanley, now 16, and the 14-year-old twins, Klaudale and Claude, Jr.

KEITH STANLEY: We do a lot of offhand jobs, odd jobs, like doing this and painting rooms and pulling up carpet, taking out furniture and stuff like that. Most of the money goes to the bank and, if it doesn't, either we're helping our sister out in college or we're helping out buying our own shoes, buying our equipment. So it doesn't just get spent on whatever you want.

BILL MOYERS: Keith had set a goal: to become the first boy on either side of the family to graduate high school and go on to college.

CLAUDE STANLEY: I try to instill in them, "You're going to need a good education. You got to go to college and without a college education you won't make it."



TERRY NEUMANN: Daniel, look for your homework!


TERRY NEUMANN: And your backpack!

KARISSA NEUMANN: And shut the door!

TERRY NEUMANN: With me working and Tony working. We had different shifts and we weren't all together all the time at the same time.

TONY NEUMANN: Karissa, Where is it?

TERRY NEUMANN: How can he lose a backpack?

KARISSA NEUMANN: to the room.

TERRY NEUMANN: Daniel started getting very quiet and he kept to himself a lot. And his attitude just changed a little bit. You know, he got really distant.

TONY NEUMANN: Hey, look at this.

TERRY NEUMANN: "Homework not finished." Why?

TONY NEUMANN: Look at this!

TERRY NEUMANN: And then Daniel started having problems with his grades in school. There's three pages here!

TONY NEUMANN: I'm not signing none of this.

TERRY NEUMANN: Let me see that.

ROBERT NICHOLAS, Counselor, Grantosa School: Some kids almost blame themselves for what's going on in a family, you know, and that they have to realize this is a situation that's a tough situation for the whole family, everybody's doing the best they can, you love him, you're there for him and you'll always be there for him.

A lot of our children here at school are getting themselves up in the morning, coming home to an empty house at-at night. Ideally, we would have a parent there to get a kid off and someone there to receive them when they come home at night. But that's, you know, in the fairy-land world, I guess, and, you know, we do what we have to do to survive.

BILL MOYERS: Because of Daniel's problems at school, Terry quit her job. She wanted to be home for the kids.

JACKIE STANLEY: [to house buyer] I'll tell you what we'll do. I'll tell you what I'd do with this one because that's the very same house. Are you planning on keeping the hedges on there? Our family would be what you would say is what the average Americans are going -through. We get hard times. And with my kind of work that I do, which is real estate. I'm a commission-I get paid on commission. It goes up. and down and it's-and it's tough,

Don't go in the back hallway, the dog's there. Like, yesterday I thought I'd have $2,000. By the time it was over with, I barely walked out with $1,500. And then you haven't thought of taking your taxes out, either. But see, again, look who you're talking to. You're talking to Jacqueline Stanley and it's not like you're talking to a little child. I've seen hard times and I'm trying to-I'm trying to go with the flow, I guess. And there's something that I always say, and I know you may not understand this, but it says, "So a man thinketh, so is be." If I think poverty all the time, I'll act that way. I can't afford to-to talk negative and then allow my children to see me that way down or depressed.

BILL MOYERS: Jackie Stanley persevered at selling real estate, but it seemed her neighborhood was coming apart at the seams.

JACKIE STANLEY: Even on this street, one block west of my house, just about every door here has the steel doors here. I have a six-foot fence. There was "I KILL YOU" written on the back of my fence -- if you don't join the gangs -- to my oldest son, Keith.

BILL MOYERS: Just blocks away from her house, Jackie's uncle was murdered by an intruder.

JACKIE STANLEY: All I could tell them is "Keep trying." Every day I have to encourage myself and I have to encourage them. Many times Keith has said to me, "What's the use, Mom?" He did a 3.5. "What does it matter?" And I said, "You got to keep going."

Someone called us the other day. The snow was heavy and we were out shoveling snow and someone stood at the window and said, "Look at your family. It's perfect." And they called us the Beaver family. I know they meant to say -- Cleaver but -- and they said, "We see you together all the time. It looks good." But it looks good, but no matter how it looks on the outside, I-I'm concerned.

BILL MOYERS: After their layoffs, the Stanley's had switched their kids to public school, but Jackie worried about them. And one day a phone call confirmed her fears.

JACKIE STANLEY: They had called me that Klaudale was going on life support because a child choked my son until be stopped breathing.

DALE STANLEY:He came from behind me and started choking me and having some wrestling hold, and so I couldn't breathe. And so I dropped to the ground and last thing I remember was teachers coming in and praying and...

JACKIE STANLEY: By the time I had gotten there, they had his chest exposed and they were telling me that Dale was now had stopped breathing. That's all they could tell me. They said they can't revive Klaudale. And when I got there, I saw the teacher on her knees, praying. "Hail Mary, full of grace," over my son. All I could say was, "Dale, remember Jesus."

CLAUDE STANLEY: You know, you hear about violence and you don't think it's going to hit your kids, you know, and then you find out your kid's getting choked at school and near death, you know? And you're on your job and you get a phone call saying, "Come quick: Your kid is on his way to the hospital" and you know, it's--and it's, like, right on your front doorstep now.

DALE STANLEY:I think it's really not the school, in general. It's not the school board. It's not the Milwaukee public schools. It's each child. If each child made in their mind that, I'm going to come to school learn today. I'm going to get the grades. I'm going to be the next Bill Clinton. I'm going to be the next Thurgood Marshall--if they would do that, then I would think that we would not have the problems with inner city school because it's not- it's not the location. It's--it's the child. It's the parent. It's the person.

JACKIE STANLEY: It's the upbringing.

KEITH STANLEY: What happens to a lot of people, you get whopped by society. Society'll tear you down because you come in there with all these dreams and you're going to do it. You're young. By the time you hit 30 and 40 years old, you done lost several jobs, you-your family's getting divorced and stuff. And you give up and you get tired. And I think we need more hope. And by getting more hope.. we need more jobs and more good examples of people making it in life.

TERRY NEUMANN: Daniel, Daniel. Let me see. Let me see. Please? Oh, come on, come on I've been waiting for this!

BILL MOYERS: Having given up on her job, Terry was home with the kids, encouraging them and helping with homework.

TERRY NEUMANN: A's, C's, C's-well, you went up in math. You had a U, you went to a C. I wasn't sure if it was the right decision, but I thought it's either that or my kids are just going to be really having a worse problem.

[reading] -Wow! I'm proud of your efforts, Dan. I know you could do it. Keep up the good work. .. Good job, Dan.

ROBERT NICHOLAS: Daniel, I've noticed, has really improved and he's gotten all of his assignments done. I think a lot of it has to do with you being home when he gets there now.

TONY NEUMANN: Did Julie mention what type of plants she wanted? Tomatoes?

TERRY NEUMANN: Yeah, she wanted tomatoes.

TONY NEUMANN: It helps out, as far as a lot of this stuff that you grow you can eat and it just helps save money a little bit. I learned this from my mom and dad and grandma and all of these people who grew up during the Depression. They figured, "Hey, seeds don't cost a whole lot." You can learn a lot by talking to some of these older adults, as far as what they bad to go through. It makes it seem like you don't have it that bad.

BILL MOYERS: Tony continued working lots of overtime. Then he got sick and lost 10 days' pay.

TERRY NEUMANN: He caught pneumonia and he collapsed.

TONY NEUMANN: Yeah, they put me on an I.V. for, I don't know, about an hour and a half or so and I had to rest and that was that.

TERRY NEUMANN: And you had to take off from work.

TONY NEUMANN: Yeah. They told me I had-

TERRY NEUMANN: For, like, a week.

TONY NEUMANN: -they said I had to be off work for about a week and a half-from dehydration. And they said that was caused by stress.

TERRY NEUMANN: And you get the bill and it's, like, $300-and-something and I said, -Just for a taxi service to the hospital?" I'm, like, come on and Tony's, like, "Oh, God, there's another bill."

BILL MOYERS: Tony's new medical expenses hit them hard. They were still paying off the debts from when he was unemployed.

TERRY NEUMANN: Just with the mortgage we got, well, three months behind and it will take us two years to get to pay that back because they tack on interest and penalty charges and whatever else, you know, so that three months takes two years. That's a long time. So whatever extra money we have, we send it, only because we want to make sure that in the next year we have it paid off so they don't take the house.

ACCOUNTANT: Okay, let's take these numbers down, see what we've got here. Looks like you've got a medical deduction there.

BILL MOYERS: In April, 1993, the Neumanns were proud that Tony was reporting income for the first time in two years.

ACCOUNTANT: Uh-oh. You don't have enough taxes paid up. You owe $900.

TERRY NEUMANN: Nine hundred dollars? Where am I going to get $900? We think about our retirement. We think about the kids' education. We really think about a lot of things. But right now, it's just like opening up one of those mail catalogs and wishing--you know--the wish book." But it will come true someday, hopefully.

BILL MOYERS: When we returned to Milwaukee in 1995, Keith Stanley was one step closer to his goal of attending college.

JACKIE STANLEY: When you're raising them, you don't have time to watch them grow up. You have time to feed them, clothe them and wipe their nose and see that nobody's beating the heck out of them out there on the street. And you don't watch until suddenly this day hits me dead in the face and I wasn't-I knew he was graduating. I knew he was in the 12th grade, but I didn't know, you know?

DALE STANLEY:Today is like the end of an era, like when Michael Jordan retired end of an era. It's like a time where it's the three of us and he's moving on to college and going on to bigger and better things. And I guess we're here just to pick up the slack and try to do what we can, try to follow behind him and look at him as a role model. And you know, if they say we don't have too many role models, we can use him as a role model, our older brother.

JACKIE STANLEY: It makes me very happy.


JACKIE STANLEY: I've been talking for years and I can't talk now! You're the first one. Mommy's not crying because she's hurting. I'm crying because God--me and God did this. There's going to be so many memories when he walks across that stage today.

ANNOUNCER: Keith Kenyata Stanley!

JACKIE STANLEY: That's my boy! That's my son, Jackie Stanley's son!

GRADUATION SPEAKER: May each of you enjoy the richest of a full life and achieve success in your chosen fields of endeavor. Congratulations. Thank you.

KEITH STANLEY: I'm kind of nervous and kind of excited, but I'm ready to go on and move on now because it's, like, been a long four years of high school. I'm hoping that after I graduate I really, you know, stay in college because l know a lot of limes people, they go out there expecting high hopes and, like, the world let them down. I want to really go out there and make some noise in the world. Yeah, that's what I want to do.

JACKIE STANLEY: Oh, God! I thank you, Jesus!

BILL MOYERS: In the spring of '95, Tony Neumann finally moved onto the day shift. Now he and Terry were able to spend more time with the kids.,. .

TERRY NEUMANN: They're doing great. They're healthy. They're doing well. In school and they're getting big. They're growing. They're just huge. They're growing out of shoes and pants and clothes.

BILL MOYERS: Tony was now making around $13 an hour-still less than he had, made at Briggs & Stratton. The Neumanns had managed to catch up on their mortgage, but they had no savings and still lived paycheck to paycheck.

TERRY NEUMANN: Morning! Morning, Barb!

BARBARA: Morning. Terry!

BILL MOYERS: Terry's latest part-time job was at a school cafeteria. Paying $6.91 an hour, it let her get home before the kids.

TERRY NEUMANN: I only work three hours, so I don't get any benefits right now... might get extra time if somebody's sick. Any extra time that I can get, I grab because it helps.

BILL MOYERS: In a typical day, Terry took home less than $20 after taxes.

TERRY NEUMANN: Oh, I have to go by my dad's house. He went on vacation for three weeks and I have to go check out the house.

BILL MOYERS: Hello, Jackie. Good to see you. This is new?


BILL MOYERS: What's going on?

JACKIE STANLEY: We put the house up on the market and it was after we took Keith to school. you know, that a lot of things that have been going on-so we just said-the neighborhood's changing and we right now feel that we should sell the house. Every year it's getting worse. Gangs are moving in. Well, right here I have $2,800 worth of steel up to my house,

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, I saw the steel doors that-protected by the


BILL MOYERS: -alarm system.


BILL MOYERS: "Beware of the dogs."

JACKIE STANLEY: We have it all. And I was going to make up a sign, Ignore the dog, ignore the alarm and you're going to make the 6:00 o'clock news." I'm-I have had it. I have had it!

BILL MOYERS: Where will you go, though?

JACKIE STANLEY: Claude and I have no idea where we're going to go. If we get the price for our house, we'll take and we'll run, but where I don't know.

TERRY NEUMANN: This is where I'm going today, Karissa-[reading] "Pick-up and deliveries. Must have CDL. Competitive wages and excellent benefits." And that's what we need, benefits. -Apply in person."

If I studied and took a test at the Motor Vehicle Department and got a CDL license and CDL license stands for Commercial Driver's License. I'm a class B-C. which if means I can drive dump trucks, straight trucks with air brakes. I'm hoping to get into a pretty good company that's going to offer me, like, eight, hours a day and give me some decent benefits, like medical, dental and eye exam.

BILL MOYERS: I remember your telling us a couple of years ago you thought it was so important that, as a mother, you were home with the kids. Daniel was having a few difficulties then-


BILL MOYERS: .approaching teenage years.


BILL MOYERS: You just felt it would be best


BILL MOYERS: -if you could be here. .

TERRY NEUMANN: I still feel that way. but under the circumstances-we're put into a situation we don't have a choice. You know, we have to sacrifice-

TONY NEUMANN: Either we do it or-

TERRY NEUMANN: Either we can't make the ends meet, you know, or we stay home with the kids.

BILL MOYERS: Knowing he wouldn't make the living he needed at his present job, Tony has been retraining again.

TONY NEUMANN: I'm always learning. You always have to learn. When you stop learning, then you got a problem. You got to do that in order to stay in the job market, too. The more you know, the better off you are.

[reading] -The honors program -- congratulations on your outstanding performance.

BILL MOYERS: Tony got near-perfect scores this time in thermoplastic molding. Now he was up for a new job.

TONY NEUMANN: I went and got an interview and I'm waiting to hear some time by the end of the month if I have the job or not.

BILL MOYERS: And that doesn't make you happy?

TERRY NEUMANN: It makes me happy because it's really what he wanted. I told him he had to make the decision and if that's-if he felt that that's what he wanted, to go ahead and do it.


TONY NEUMANN: It's a cut in pay, right off.

TERRY NEUMANN: It's a cut in pay, They do have good benefits.

BILL MOYERS: How much do you lose if you take it?

TONY NEUMANN: Oh, probably about-

TERRY NEUMANN: Three bucks.

TONY NEUMANN: -$2.50, $3 an hour.


TONY NEUMANN: But the thing is, four years down the road I'll be making more money than I would ever dream of making here.

TERRY NEUMANN: But is it going to be there when he gets out, you know what I mean? They promise you that it's going to be there. It's-it's

TONY NEUMANN: Four years-they're going to...

TERRY NEUMANN: I know. I know-

TONY NEUMANN: They're going to stick you through school. They're going to train you on the job for four years. Now, that is going to cost them a lot of money to put you through school and train you and why would they do all of that and want to kick you out? If they do kick me out after the four years, I would have a Journeyman's card and you can go pretty much anywhere once you get a Journeyman's card.

TERRY NEUMANN: Right. I know. I don't want to burst your bubble...


TERRY NEUMANN: -but what happens if they can't compete with a neighbor?

BILL MOYERS:As you say, it's happened twice to Tony.

TERRY NEUMANN: Right. So I'm really reluctant. I mean, I'm happy for him because he's excited about this job, but I'm still-you know, a company can Just-I mean I've seen it. It can just pick up and move-

KEITH STANLEY: [on tape] Hey, what's up, everybody? It's Keith. I'm inside my dorm room. Just trying to let you know how everything's doing.

BILL MOYERS: In September of 1995, Keith Started at Alabama University.

KEITH STANLEY: [on tape] I'm kind of taking each step at a time. It's kind of harder than I thought, but I can do it.

BILL MOYERS: How do you afford to keep Keith in college?

JACKIE STANLEY: I negotiated two transactions and closed them the day before he left. And you're talking about a prayer!

BILL MOYERS: Jackie's commissions paid for only part of the first semester. [interviewing] What does it take you a year down there for him?

JACKIE STANLEY: It's $7,000 a year.

BILL MOYERS: Is he going to be able to make it this year?

JACKIE STANLEY: I just received a letter that I have to pay $1,300 now or Keith will have to be put out in 48 hours. But again-God came through again. Keith had applied for a lot of charge cards before he left.

[on the phone] Keith? Hi. How are you doing? All right. Listen, we came up with something. Oh, that's so sweet. I can tell you've been down south a long time. You're saying ìYes, ma'am.î Your Discover card came in and we were concerned about this letter that came from your school, so here's what we're going to do. I called the Discover card people and I told them we wanted a cash advance.

BILL MOYERS: Most people, when they pray, expect God to give them a miracle. You-what you got was a $1,000 credit with 18 percent interest rate.

JACKIE STANLEY: But it'll tide me over until I can get the miracle.

[on the phone] So then this semester is taken care of. You hear me. All night. I love you. It's called "Rob Peter to pay Paul" and I'm robbing Peter so much at Peter is just standing there. But Bill when you're going from trying to figure out what to eat today, "Should I fill my tank all the way up?" - it's just got to happen. I can't afford to worry about anything but what I'm taking care of. I have a sign as you come in. It's a little bitty - it looks like a Bible. And it says, "As for me and my house." That's all I'm worried about. And I know that's the '90s mood and I don't want to have that, but I- but as for me and my house, I can't worry what the president's doing. I can't worry about what my neighbors are doing.

BILL MOYERS: Or the new global economy?

JACKIE STANLEY: Or the economy. It's only just us. .

BILL MOYERS: As 1995 draws to a close, the Stanley's and Neumanns continue to try and make ends meet. Terry has taken a full-time job as an armored car driver. Starting pay is $7.50 an hour, plus the crucial medical benefits that Tony's job lacks.

TERRY NEUMANN: I get a lot of looks from a lot of truck drivers a lot of double takes that- "Wow, look at that!" Yeah, I love it. I think it's great, you know?


TERRY NEUMANN: Working, yeah, and having the power behind the big truck, you know? I like it.

BILL MOYERS: The power behind the big truck?

TERRY NEUMANN: Yeah. I get a lot more looks than sitting in the kitchen cooking muffins!

BILL MOYERS:Tony didn't get the job he retrained for. He's continuing at his old one. Together, Tony and Terry now earn more than Tony did before his layoff, but the Neumann kids come home alone. The Stanley twins have taken fast food jobs. The money they earn ,goes to help Keith in college, but they have goals of their own.

CLAUDE STANLEY, Jr.: I plan to go to medical school and succeed in life. And I still haven't left that dream of making $300 million, something like that, what I used to say. I still haven't lost that.

DALE STANLEY:I plan to be an architectural engineer and be the next Frank Lloyd Wright and grow up and have a nice family, you know? That's my long-term goal, retire, play a little golf and that's about it.

BILL MOYERS: Claude, Sr., is still on the job, waterproofing basements. [interviewing] Do you think: you'll ever retire?

CLAUDE STANLEY: Oh, [laughs] the way it look now, I don't think so. I'm going to have to keep on working.

BILL MOYERS: Meanwhile, Briggs & Stratton is in the process of eliminating 2,000 more jobs in Milwaukee. And for working people all over America, real wages continue to decline.

JACKIE STANLEY: And there's something that I always say, and I know you may not understand this, but it says. "So a man thinketh, so is he." If I think poverty all the time, I'll act that way. I can't afford to-to talk. negative and then allow my children to see me that way.

Living on the Edge

December 12, 1995

This documentary, filmed over a period of five years, updates the stories of two hardworking Milwaukee families struggling with low-paying jobs after previous employers downsized their operations. 

Follow the Families

Bill Moyers first met the Stanleys and Neumanns when they were featured in his 1990 documentary Minimum Wages: The New Economy.

The families were revisited again in 2000 for Surviving the Good Times.

The latest update aired on Frontline on July 9, 2013.

  • submit to reddit