Blue collar worker Vicki Williams' turn at being an unemployment statistic came one day last November. Until then she had earned $6.58 an hour soldering transformers in a Huntington, Ind., factory. As she sometimes does when she wants to get things off her chest, she sat down and wrote what she called "thoughts of an average taxpayer." They would become some of the most effective thoughts on Reaganomics any writer, professional or otherwise, has had published. Newsweek's "My Turn" column used them on Jan. 18 and has since received a record-breaking 1,100 letters. Another 300 people wrote directly to Williams at her home in Andrews, Ind.
Three months later she is still out of a job (her husband has been out of one even longer), but at least three U.S. senators know how she feels. Two weeks ago, representing her machinists' union, she and other unemployed workers appeared on Capitol Hill before Democrats Ted Kennedy, Alan Cranston and Howard Metzenbaum at a policy forum on unemployment. Metzenbaum was so impressed with her Newsweek piece that he read into the record the part about how Ronald Reagan "seems to be telling us that the United States is a sinking ship and that if we harden our hearts and throw a few people overboard, we can lighten the load. Then, possibly, the Ship of State can sail back to shore." (Among the lines he skipped: "Do you know how much pity I can spare for a senator who can't live on $60,000 a year?")
Williams has had almost a dozen talk show invitations ("Real People" goes to Andrews in early March). She also has had discussions with 20th Century-Fox. Tracking her down by telephone, a Fox official called the Andrews (pop. l,200) police station, which turned out to be two blocks from the Williamses' home. "Don't hang up," said an excited cop, "and I'll run down and get her." Last week, the 35-year-old Williams, who never got beyond a high school diploma, flew to Hollywood to talk about a movie on her blue-collar life.
"It's like a fairy tale," she says. "I really don't enjoy flying around to things like that. But I also feel as if people in my class don't normally get a chance to break out. I don't want to spend my life soldering transformers."