This is a cross-post by Chase Brandau from Working America’s Main Street blog.
In late 2008, 28-year-old Rochester, Minn., native Tim Wynn injured his hand on the job while working as a machinist and was eventually unfairly fired due to the injury. “It was at that time I had to file for unemployment insurance,” Wynn recalls. “Which was only a little over $400 a month, but we were able to make it work with one of us still working.”
Wynn had to rely on unemployment insurance for over a year, while looking for a job and simultaneously trying to get the surgery he needed for his damaged hand but could not afford to pay for. However, if the federal system for unemployment benefits had been overhauled to include new proposals, Wynn would not have qualified for unemployment insurance.
Working America, the grassroots organization for workers whose 250,000 members in Minnesota have expressed great concern about these new requirements, has been bringing awareness to this issue to Minnesotans all over the state. “One of these new state requirements would be to deny unemployment insurance claimants without a high school diploma from receiving benefits, unless they are currently enrolled in a GED program,” says Working America’s Minnesota State Director Brianna Halverson. “Barriers that would require jobless workers have diplomas are simply unfair and unworkable when the waiting lists for GED programs are sometimes years long.”
Wynn, like many, had a family early in life. “I did what I needed to do,” he said, “which was to take responsibility for my family and go straight into the workforce. I knew my career choices would be limited, but I was willing to work hard to provide for my child.”
“I never thought that I would have been in the situation I was in, but the idea that not having a high school diploma would prevent me from receiving unemployment insurance is outrageous,” exclaimed Wynn. “Actually, it would discriminate about half of the co-workers I’ve ever known, many of whom are currently out of work and would be devastated by this.”
Halverson adds, “This provision seems part of a larger agenda to stigmatize unemployment insurance by suggesting that Americans are jobless because of their own failings, rather than because our economy still has 6 million fewer jobs than when the recession started.”
After three years, Wynn prevailed in holding his former employer accountable for unfairly firing him; allowing him to get the surgery to repair his wrist. Wynn now has medical clearance to work again. When asked what would have happened if he had been required to have a high school diploma to receive unemployment insurance, Wynn said: “We would have lost everything. Those benefits were the only thing that kept a roof over our heads and our spirits up.” He added that without the insurance, he would never have been able to get surgery and would have lost use of his hand forever.
Information in a Jan. 26, 2012, statement from Committee of Ways and Means Democrats indicates that if House Republican bill H.R. 3630 is enacted, more than 35,000 Minnesotans would lose unemployment insurance.
“I want others in Minnesota to stop looking at unemployment insurance as something that only costs taxpayers money and which can be easily cut,” says Wynn. “When people have money to stay above water, that means they’re spending it into the economy, which keeps many businesses, employees and families above water as well. Congress should not make being jobless even harder than it already is.”
We asked economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), to expand upon recent reports that show a marked improvement in the nation’s jobs picture. In January, 243,000 jobs were created and unemployment dropped significantly for some of the hardest-hit workers. Baker’s intepretation of the data presents a still-mixed economic picture, but one bright point stands out clearly: President Obama’s support of the U.S. auto industry has been key to improving job creation for America’s workers. Be sure to pick up a copy of Baker’s latest book, The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive.
Q.: As you’ve noted, the January drop in unemployment was especially sharp for African American and Latino workers. The jobless rate for black workers fell by 2.2 percentage points to 13.6 percent, the lowest level since March 2009. For Latino workers, the jobless rate dropped by 0.5 to 10.5 percent, the lowest since January 2009. What’s behind this good news?
A.: My best guess is that much of this is a statistical quirk. These numbers are always erratic and can and do jump around month to month. However, part of the drop is probably real. I suspect that with the African American population much of the story is related to the increase in manufacturing and construction employment, which is likely clustered in the Midwest. These are sectors that disproportionately employ African American workers.
The improvement for Latinos is less easily explained. Of course, many Latinos are employed in construction, but more in the West and South than Midwest, which has seen the biggest gains.
Anyhow, I suspect that part of the improvement in the employment picture is weather related. We had unusually warm weather across the Northeast/Midwest in December and January, which means that construction and manufacturing were not disrupted as much as usual. That would make it appear that we are adding jobs.
Q.: Employment in manufacturing and construction also showed strong growth in January. You attribute the construction job hike to unseasonably warm weather. But what about manufacturing? It’s been one area of job growth for several months now. What’s behind its resurgence and can it continue?
A.: Car sales clearly are the main factor here. Car sales have rebounded by more than 20 percent from their low in 2009. This means jobs not just in autos, but also in a wide range of supplier industries. This uptick is likely to continue as people replace older cars, but the rate of growth will certainly be slower.
Q.: Recent upward revisions to job growth for November and December mean the nation has averaged an increase of 201,000 jobs over the past three months. The January jobs data shows several measures of unemployment are coming down—for the unemployed and even for those who are discouraged and had given up looking for a job. Yet the numbers of the long-term unemployed remain stubbornly the same—5.5 million workers. How do you interpret these data going forward?
A.: We have a huge backlog of unemployed workers and especially long-term unemployed. This is not going to change in a month. To give an idea of the relative magnitudes here, we need roughly 100,000 new jobs a month to keep pace with the growth of the labor force. That means that over the last three months we whittled down this pool of unemployed workers at the rate of roughly 100,000 a month. If all of these jobs went to the long-term unemployed, it would take us more than 4.5 years for all of them to get jobs.
Q.: We often hear that the reason hiring has been so low in this recovery is that employers can’t find workers with the education and skills they need. What’s your take on this assertion?
A.: This claim is inconsistent with the data. If the issue was skills then we would expect to see areas/occupations where wages are rising rapidly and there is other evidence of shortages, such as increased overtime for the existing workforce and a big increase in job openings. We do not see this in any major sector of the economy. There is no major occupation where wages are rising rapidly or in which average weekly hours have risen sharply. There also is no area that has anything resembling an excess of job opening to unemployed workers.
It continues to look overwhelming like this is a simple case of inadequate demand depressing employment for everyone. The rate of unemployment for college grads is still more than twice its pre-recession level. That is not consistent with employers having difficulty getting skilled workers.
Unemployment insurance as we know it is on the chopping block.
So-called tea party legislators are trying to punish and humiliate people who are out of work—they’re even threatening to take away unemployment insurance from some people completely.
If you believe Congress should be focusing on jobs instead of punishing and even humiliating people who are out of work through no fault of their own, take action now.
These “tea party” politicians are pushing plans to:
- Slash federal unemployment funding by more than half in the states with the highest unemployment.
- Let states whose governments have been taken over by the tea party divert premium money away from unemployment as we know it—and use it to experiment with right-wing social engineering programs (like “workfare,” where people are forced to work for free to get unemployment benefits).
- Mandate drug testing requirements. Politicians are ready to humiliate people who are out of work—by making them urinate in a cup to get benefits they paid for and are entitled to.
- Make jobless workers pay for their re-employment services. People who are out of work through no fault of their own and have paid into the system aren’t asking for a handout—but a helping hand. Now, the radical lawmakers want to make them to pay for the privilege.
- Deny benefits to people who never got their high school diploma lose their right to benefits—they’d have unemployment insurance taken out of their paycheck—but will get nothing should they lose their job. Shame!
- Cut federal employee pensions—or freezing wages for yet another year. Federal workers have already done more than their fair share to balance the budget—while the richest 1% of Americans have been asked to do absolutely nothing.
Tell Congress to focus on jobs rather than punishing jobless workers who have already suffered enough.
The nation’s unemployment rate in January fell to 8.3 percent, down from December’s 8.5 percent, and the economy added 243,000 jobs, according to the latest figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The nation’s unemployment rate continues it steady decline, dropping by 0.8 percentage points since August and to the lowest point since February 2009. The number of jobless workers dropped to 12.8 million, down from December’s 13.1 million. But the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 5.5 million, about 42.9 percent of the unemployed.
The unemployment insurance program for the nation’s jobless workers expires Feb. 29. A conference is now under way between the Senate and House over two very different one-year extensions of the UI program passed late last year, and the Republican bill would slash federal benefits, impose harsh new restrictions and move to dismantle the essential lifeline of unemployment insurance. Click here for details.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says, “The seeds of sustainable job growth are clearly present—if Republicans in Congress do not succeed in weakening the recovery.”
Republican leaders, who are admittedly unconcerned with the poor and still pressing for ill-timed austerity in Washington and state capitals, run a very real risk of putting this incipient recovery at risk. President Obama, by contrast, has laid out a comprehensive agenda for job creation and broadly shared prosperity, rather than wealth for a few.
Private-sector jobs grew by 257,000, and government employment was essentially unchanged, but over the past 12 months 276,000 public employee jobs have been lost.
In January, professional and business services add about 70,000 jobs. The leisure and hospitality industry added 44,000 jobs and health care jobs grew by 31,000.
Manufacturing saw an increase of 50,000 jobs, mostly in durable goods, and the construction industry added 21,000 jobs. There were 10,000 new jobs in the mining industry in January.
The unemployment rates for adult men (7.7 percent) and African Americans (13.6 percent) declined in January. The unemployment rates for adult women (7.7 percent), teenagers (23.2 percent), whites (7.4 percent) and Hispanics (10.5 percent) were little changed.
Economic Policy Institute (EPI) economist Heidi Shierholz says today’s figures show “a labor market where all the moving parts seemed to be moving in a solidly good direction.”
Strong payroll employment growth was matched by a falling unemployment rate, strong employment growth in the household survey and a growing share of the population with jobs….It’s important to keep this growth in context, however—the jobs deficit is so large that even at January’s growth rate, it would still take until 2019 to get back to full employment. We need reports this strong and stronger for the next several years to get back to good health in the labor market.
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address tonight made clear that he hears the people who aren’t being heard by the 1 percent, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Obama’s speech showed he “listened to the single mom working two jobs to get by, to the out-of-work construction worker, to the retired factory worker, to the student serving coffee to help pay for college.”
By laying out a vision of an America that can create jobs and prosperity for all instead of wealth for the few, Trumka said the president “voiced the aspirations and concerns of those who are too often ignored.”
Obama also made clear that the era of the 1 percent getting rich by looting the economy, rather than creating jobs, is over.
“Now it’s time for Congress to stop standing in the way of rebuilding our country and act,” Trumka said.
President Obama presented Congress a choice, Trumka said, between Obama’s vision of the need to invest to achieve stable, long-term prosperity for all and the vision of presidential candidates squabbling over how much further to cut the taxes of the 1 percent.
Obama “spoke to the confidence of working people that if we are determined and committed, we can revitalize ‘Made in the USA.’ That commitment to American manufacturing, made possible in part by enhanced enforcement of trade laws being violated by China , is welcome news to the too many productive, hard working Americans sitting idle unnecessarily.”
Trumka praised the President’s powerful insistance “on a more humble Wall Street subject to a thorough investigation of the misconduct in the mortgage markets that wrecked our economy,” and applauded the creation of a new mortgage crisis unit to be co-chaired by New York’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman.
Obama also sent a message of hope to America’s young people, “with his words of support for DREAM students, immigrants brought to this country by their parents and committed to the quintessentially American vision of hard work at school or in military service,” Trumka said.
The bottom line, of course, is job creation. The nation is still short 10 million jobs deficit from losses in 2008 and 2009. The addition of 200,000 jobs in December was strong and welcome growth, but the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) points out that even at that rate, the United States will not return to full employment until 2019.
Since Labor Day, Obama has been speaking out forcefully against the same staggering increase in inequality that inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement. His State of the Union speech demonstrate s a focus on job creation Republican House and
Senate leaders should follow.
Yet the Republican leadership is so out of touch it chose Indiana’s Gov. Mitch Daniels to give the party’s response to the State of the Union address, a move Trumka says represents:
the sad decline of the national Republican party and its growing fixation with the voices of CEOs instead of every day Americans.
Unemployment for African American workers has remained virtually unchanged, hovering between 15 percent to 16 percent throughout 2011, while unemployment for the rest of the workforce dropped below 9 percent, according to a new report by the University of California-Berkeley’s Labor Center.
Steven Pitts, a labor policy specialist at the center and author of the report, said:
[C]urrent unemployment rates for Black workers are still higher than in June 2009, when the recession officially ended, and well above December 2007, when the downturn began.
Read the full report here.
James Parks, communications director at the D.C. Office of Interfaith Worker Justice, sends us this.
More than 500 people packed the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., Jan. 16 for an Interfaith Service for Jobs. The service was sponsored by Faith Advocates for Jobs to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and to call on our nation’s government to make King’s dream of economic justice and good jobs a reality.
John Butler and Linda Evans, two unemployed Washington, D.C., workers, told the crowd that they were organizing, protesting and pushing for our national leadership to create good jobs. Butler said it was hard having to decide between paying his rent or buying needed medicines. “America, you can do much better than this,” he proclaimed.
Evans said she was concerned about the future of the “babies” who are just starting work. They were raised to believe that getting an education would lead to a good job. But that’s not the case anymore, she said.
Our leaders must act to make jobs a national priority, said the Rev. Paul Sherry, national coordinator of Faith Advocates for Jobs. Congress has a short time to extend benefits for millions of unemployed workers.
Good jobs can be created; it’s just a matter of will. We will walk the halls of Congress to demand that our representatives create good jobs so mothers and fathers can feed their children. We will walk the halls of Congress to demand that our leaders extend benefits to the unemployed.
Speakers repeatedly emphasized the links between faith and work. Reading from King’s address to the 1961 AFL-CIO Convention, the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, director of public witness for the Presbyterian Church USA, pointed out that the goals of the union movements and the civil rights movements are identical. Fifty years ago King told the convention:
Our needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare standards, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in their community.
Nelson said those needs are just as critical today and apply not only to African Americans but to the disabled, poor, immigrants and the unemployed.
An interfaith group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders led the crowd in a series of litanies for worker justice, including those who are unemployed, underemployed and their families, for a faithful national budget, for victims of wage theft who are not paid what they are owed. Other litanies called for worker safety, an extension of unemployment benefits, more opportunities for young workers entering the workforce and for workers’ rights to join a union to be respected.
Many people would be surprised to learn that access to jobs was a part of Dr. King’s dream, said the Rev. Dr. James Forbes in his sermon. He reminded the audience that the official title of the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, was “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”
Any society, economic system or person who stifles a person’s fulfillment by denying them work is “ungodly,” said Forbes, the Harry Emerson Fosdick Distinguished Professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
The nation gained 200,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate improved to 8.5 percent from 8.6 percent in November, according to Department of Labor data out this morning. The unemployment rate has declined by 0.6 percentage points since August, and the number of unemployed workers dropped to 13.1 million from close to 14 million.
The data also show the:
unemployment rate for adult men decreased to 8 percent in December. The jobless rates for adult women (7.9 percent), teenagers (23.1 percent), whites (7.5 percent), blacks (15.8 percent) and Hispanics (11 percent) showed little change. The jobless rate for Asians was 6.8 percent.
Most industries added jobs, with the exception of construction and government. In 2011, 280,000 jobs were cut in local government, state government, (excluding education) and the U.S. Postal Service.
In December, employment in transportation and warehousing (50,000) and manufacturing (23,000) rose. Retail trade continued to add jobs in December, with a gain of 28,000. Health care added 23,000 jobs in December, and mining employment rose by 7,000 over the month. Over the year, mining added 89,000 jobs.
Hailing the report, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said ”the leadership of
the President and Democrats in Congress is demonstrating a way forward.” In fact, more private-sector jobs have been created under the Obama administration in either 2010 or 2011 than were createdunder the eight years of George W. Bush.
But Trumka warned:
Immediate growth depends critically on extending unemployment insurance and the payroll tax cut, for the entire year, without the politicking and brinksmanship that has become the norm. From investing in infrastructure, keeping jobs in America, aiding our cities and states, keeping homeowners in their homes and continuing to reform Wall Street, we are hopeful for a New Year defined by putting America back to work.
The jobs report is a “step in the right direction,” according to the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which pointed out that data also show hours and wages were up, underemployment dropped and the duration of unemployment declined.
The organization cautioned, however that:
The jobs deficit left from losses in 2008/2009 remains well over 10 million jobs; even at December’s growth rate, it would still take about seven more years—until around 2019—to fill the gap and get back to the pre-recession unemployment rate. We need reports this strong and stronger for many years to come to bring our labor market back to health.
In a great example of a proactive way to deal with unemployment, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) partnered with Community Churches United for Baltimore Jobs to give job training in the construction trades to unemployed workers. In a sharp contrast to the developers in Baltimore who are receiving massive tax breaks, the faith-based coalition requested help from the labor union in helping get unemployed workers the skills they need to get back into the workforce.
From the press release about Thursday’s event:
“As a long-time Baltimore resident I am appalled that members of our communities, who are willing and able to work, are routinely left out of conversations with developers when it comes to local jobs,” said David Stokes, a local LIUNA trainer. “We have hundreds of workers who have reached out to us from throughout Baltimore who are willing to be trained so that they can help rebuild their own communities.”
Currently, Community Churches United for Baltimore Jobs is working to bring attention to EBDI to hear the community’s cry for local job opportunities. Community Churches United for Baltimore Jobs is calling on EBDI to implement a Community Workforce Agreement with the following provisions:
• Goal of 50 percent of Baltimore city residents with aggressive recruitment from the communities directly affected by the project.
• Goal for apprentices and new entry-level workers to be 20 percent of total workforce.
Community Churches United for Baltimore Jobs is a faith-based alliance comprised of congregations whose goal is to uplift the community by helping residents attain their full potential through local job training and spiritual guidance.
When House Republicans left town for the holidays Wednesday, they didn’t even leave behind a piece of coal in the stockings of some 2.8 million jobless workers whose unemployment benefits are about to expire over the course of the next two months. At least a piece of coal can be burned for heat.
An analysis by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) finds that come January, some 1.8 million will lose their unemployment insurance (UI), with another 1.1 million meeting the same fate in February.
NELP Executive Director Christine Owens explained in a statement:
Winter is upon us, a time when shelter, heat, and adequate nutrition are expensive and deeply important, and the most vulnerable among us are at even greater risk.
Further, Owens explained, the House failure to extend UI will be felt well beyond the ranks of the unemployed themselves:
The impact of a lapse of federal unemployment insurance will be devastating for the unemployed, their families, the communities in which they live and the local economies the benefits support.
As we reported, House GOP leaders scuttled a vote on a bill already passed by the Senate that would have extended federal unemployment benefits by an additional two months, and extended the payroll tax holiday for the same amount of time.
To rob the unemployed and their families of their essential lifeline just as the New Year begins, especially when a clear alternate path is available, is more than callous—it is unconscionable.
Download the full report, in a PFF file, here.
According to an analysis released by the Department of Labor, 3.3 million Americans would lose unemployment insurance under H.R. 3630—the House Republicans’ so-called “compromise” bill that cuts coverage for jobless workers, cuts pay for public employees, cuts preventive health services, reduces premium assistance for low- and middle-income individuals buying health insurance and raises premiums for many Medicare beneficiaries.
You can find out how many people would lose benefits in your state under this terrible bill by clicking here.
Meanwhile, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released data yesterday showing claims that unemployment insurance benefits dissuade the jobless from looking for for work are untrue. Unemployed workers who receive unemployment insurance (UI) are more likely to search for jobs online, look at newspaper classified ads and to send e-mail inquiries and applications to prospective employers than those who never receive benefits.
The same lawmakers who obstructed an extension of unemployment insurance are now are suddenly claiming they are willing to extend unemployment coverage. But when you look at the details, all they have to offer is massive cuts that would throw over three million people off of unemployment. Some “compromise?”
The AFL-CIO believes it’s time for Congress to stop picking on the 99 percent and make the 1 percent pay its fair share. And we will keep pushing for a clean, full extension of jobless aid, because it’s the right thing to do.
As Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP) says,
Long-term unemployed workers are not lazy slackers who choose an unemployment check over a paycheck. They are millions of men and women—family, friends and neighbors, many of whom have worked for years—whose lives and livelihoods have been chewed up and spit out by the nation’s worst economy in 80 years. With the number of officially unemployed job seekers still outnumbering job openings by more than four-to-one, it’s no wonder so many long-term unemployed workers cannot find work: there simply are not enough jobs.
Listen to the conventional wisdom, and you’ll hear that women have fared better than men in the recent recession. In reality, women are not only shouldering the burden of being the sole breadwinner in more families than ever before, they also account for the majority of public-sector layoffs. Single mothers and women in communities of color continue to suffer rising unemployment of more than 12 percent.
Against that backdrop, the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), as part of a coalition of 40 national organizations, is launching HERvotes, a nonpartisan campaign to mobilize women around the pressing issues of health and economic rights.
While it’s true that the initial rounds of layoffs after the housing bubble burst in 2007 and the stock market crash in 2008 hit men harder than women, men have now benefited significantly from the jobs added to the economy in the ensuing years. As CLUW Executive Director Carol Rosenblatt notes in a post on the HERvotes blog:
According to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, women lost 46,000 jobs from December 2007 – June 2009 while men gained 1.26 million.
She also notes that women comprise nearly 64 percent of laid-off public-sector workers—a number disproportionate to their 57 percent representation in the public-sector workforce. (See our report, here.)
Drawing from the stories of unemployed people that appear on the AFL-CIO site where jobless workers are relating their stories, Rosenblatt highlights the comments of two women among those ranks, including a poignant entry from a Pennsylvania woman named Juli, who writes:
Without unemployment, I have no way to feed my two sons, to pay our rent, to try and find another job.
Rosenblatt’s post appeared in a HERvotes blog carnival, part of a campaign to get Congress to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits to those whose benefits are about to expire in January.
One way you can participate, via Twitter, is to retweet these, which both HERvotes and MomsRising have been sending from their Twitter accounts:
Call Congress: 888-245-3381 Tell your Rep to oppose @RepDaveCamp bill #HR3630 to slash unemployment ins. #extendUI #HERvotes PlsRT
#Unemployment Insurance=critical 4 #women! TAKEACTION:EZ Click-to-call: http://j.mp/uZOqhp Tell Congress #ExtendUI Oppose HR 3630 #HERvotes
The HERvotes actions also included taking part in last week’s prayer vigil for jobless workers and a Friday gathering on Capitol Hill focusing on unemployment that featured Eleanor Smeal, president, Feminist Majority; Linda Hallman, executive director, American Association of University Women (AAUW); Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president, National Women’s Law Center (NWLC); Nancy Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW); Gloria Lau, CEO, YWCA USA; Donna Norton, national campaign director of Mom’s Rising; Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and CLUW President Karen See. After the event, many of the participants joined in a prayer vigil that took place outside the U.S. Capitol building.
Holding white carnations high above their heads to symbolize the nation’s millions of jobless workers—including the 6 million facing the loss of their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits Dec. 31—more than 2,000 union, faith and community activists committed their faith and action to demand Congress act now to extend the emergency lifeline for the jobless.
At the prayer vigil—with the Capitol dome rising in the background—the Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, director of the Washington, D.C., office of Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), offered the opening invocation and prayer.
We are one people, united in our goal here to bring justice and mercy to all people…and, today in your presence, Lord, we do believe we will prevail and ask that you give us the commitment to stand with them every day.
The crowd included a large contingent from the Take Back the Capitol action on the National Mall who marched up Constitution Avenue to the vigil, with banners and signs that read “This is Economic Emergency,” “We Need Jobs Now,” and “We Are the 99%.”
Shonda Sneed is an engineering worker from Yellow Springs, Ohio, who has been unemployed on and off for the past two years. She is taking care of her mother who has dementia. She told the crowd:
“I don’t want a handout. All I want is a job. No one wants to be on unemployment but it should be there for people when they have no other choice. Right now, it’s hard for the average person like me to find a job….My unemployment insurance is my lifeline and the only way for me to make ends meet and put food on the table.”
Jose Barraza, a New Mexico construction worker, takes care of four of his grandchildren. Working now, but unemployed for most of the past two years, Barraza said his UI coverage helped him and his family remain in their home.
“With the Great Recession and the housing crisis, I was suddenly laid off from my job in construction, where I had been working for my whole life. I ran out of savings, even my retirement money, and I had no other option than to ask for unemployment insurance. It was not a lot of money, and we just had enough to feed my grandchildren. We barely made it. But thanks to that money, we were able to make it and we were not left out in the street.”
“We cannot separate faith from justice,” IWJ’s Ibrahim Ramey said.
The power of injustice may be great, but the power of God is greater.
Bill Redler, an unemployed plumber from Omaha, Neb., the Rev. Michael Livingston of the National Council of Churches and the Rev. Jennifer Butler of Faith in Public Life led a litany on commitment.
“Will you commit to speaking up and acting for change,” they asked. “We Commit,” the crowd boomed back.
Will you commit to speaking up and demanding that unemployment insurance benefits be renewed?
Will you commit to speaking up and acting for jobs not cuts?
Will you commit to speaking up for and acting to create an economy that works for all?
As the vigil ended, most of the crowd marched across Constitution Avenue and past the broad Capitol Hill Plaza to the steps of the Capitol. Several people held a large banner across and steps that read, “We Are the 99% Taking Back the Capitol.” Marchers tossed the carnations on the steps to leave a reminder to Congress that time is running out for the 6 million jobless workers who will lose their UI lifeline if Congress does not act.
Tomorrow in a prayer vigil on Capitol Hill and at actions at dozens of congressional offices around the nation, workers, activists and people of faith will demand Congress act now to extend long-term unemployment insurance (UI) benefits that expires Dec. 31. As many as 6 million people could lose their benefits next year if Congress does not act.
At the prayer vigil that will take place at 11 a.m. (EST) at Upper Senate Park (on the corner of New Jersey and Constitution Aves., NW), participants will wear and distribute white carnations to symbolize the millions of jobless workers who are threatened by congressional inaction.
If you can’t be there in person, Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) invites you to join the prayer event online. If you are on Facebook, click here to RSVP for the online prayer vigil. In an “Open letter to the 1 Percent” yesterday, the IWJ executive board wrote:
During this time of financial crisis and economic disparity, we affirm the God-given dignity of every person. We believe God loves all 100 percent of us and wants to use us to create a more just society.
Click here for the full letter.
You can also make your voice heard by clicking here and telling Congress not to adjourn for the year before they renew long-term UI benefits. No help for jobless, no vacation for Congress.
Don’t forget to the visit a new AFL-CIO website where jobless workers and their families and friends are sharing their experiences to prod Congress to extend long-term UI benefits. Click here to read their stories or share yours. You also can share the stories on Facebook and via Twitter with the hashtag #extendUI.
The nation’s unemployment rate in November fell to 8.6 percent down from October’s 9 percent and the lowest since March 2009. The economy added 120,000 jobs last month, according to the latest figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Economists say the nation needs 130,000-150,000 new jobs each month to keep up with the growth of the workforce, and the large drop in the unemployment rate also is the result of some 315,000 workers dropping out of the labor force. The jobless rate counts only people who are actively looking for work.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the drop in the jobless rate is welcome but closing “the 11 million jobs gap opened by the Great Recession will require far more aggressive growth.”
This week, however, instead of focusing on job creation, tone-deaf Republicans kept pressing forward on legislation to strip away long-standing safeguards of workers’ rights. Those in Congress should listen to working families and pass the American Jobs Act, starting with extending unemployment insurance and the payroll tax reduction. As long as Congress continues to ignore these calls for action, our economic recovery remains in grave danger.
Economic Policy Institute (EPI) economist Heidi Shierholz says:
At this pace of job growth, it will be more than two decades before we get back down to the pre-recession unemployment rate. Moreover, a shrinking labor force is not the way we want to see unemployment drop. At this rate of growth we are looking at a long, long schlep before our sick labor market recovers.
More than 13 million workers remain unemployed, but some 26 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed or have stopped looking for work. The number of long-term jobless (more than 27 weeks) was 5.7 million, or 43 percent of the total jobless.
Unemployment Insurance (UI) coverage for the long-term unemployed is set to expire Dec. 31 and nearly 2 million out-of-work Americans will be cut off from federal UI coverage the first week of January alone, unless Congress renews the program. More than 6 million workers could potentially lose their critically needed UI coverage over the course of 2012.
Wednesday, some 200 jobless workers rallied on Capitol Hill and delivered 75,000 petitions urging Congress act now to extend unemployment insurance coverage. The rally kicked off week-long series of actions to demand Congress act and will culminate with a Dec. 8 Capitol Hill rally of jobless workers, union members and community and faith activists.
Today’s figures show that unemployment rate for adult men fell by 0.5 percentage point to 8.3 percent in November. The jobless rate for whites declined from 8 to 7.6 percent while the jobless rate for African Americans rose to 15.5 percent from 15.1 percent in October. The rates for adult women (7.8 percent), teenagers (23.7 percent) and Hispanics (11.4 percent) showed little or no change.
Some 200 unemployed workers converged on Capitol Hill yesterday to demand that Congress act immediately to extend unemployment insurance (UI) to those whose benefits are due to expire, but who remain unemployed in what has been termed a “jobless recovery.” Unless Congress reauthorizes the federal UI program before Dec. 31, millions of Americans will find themselves with no income at all.
“This issue challenges the soul of America,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) at a rally at the U.S. Capitol building, where workers from varied walks of life described how the loss of their jobs is affecting their families and even their communities. “This isn’t a subject for horse-trading,” Levin added, “it’s a subject for action.” Levin is the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.
The workers joined Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), to deliver some 75,000 petitions signed by Americans calling for the reauthorization of federal unemployment insurance through 2012—with a vote before the Dec. 31 expiration. The petitions were organized by the AFL-CIO, NELP/UnemployedWorkers.org, USAction and MomsRising.org. The event marked the beginning of a weeklong series of actions by labor and our progressive allies to demand Congress extend unemployment insurance coverage that will culminate with a Dec. 8 event in which unemployed workers will rally on Capitol Hill.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis implored Congress to act, explaining that allowing unemployment benefits to expire affects not only out-of-work people and their families, but the economy at large, since unemployment checks are plowed right back into the community for purchases of life’s necessities, as well as the payment of mortgages and car loans. Solis said:
There are those in Congress who say we can’t afford to extend unemployment benefits and the payroll tax [holiday] in the current fiscal environment. I say we can’t afford not to….It’s the American thing to do.
Jill Fleming-Salopek, a 40-year-old teacher from Munhall, Penn., explained how local- and state-level budget cuts led to her school district laying off one-third of its staff—including her. She said:
I’m here for the children who are suffering because of this situation.
Fleming-Salopek choked up as she recounted how she was the first in her family to go to college, noting that she’s still paying for her education. She has a master’s degree and three children and said she cannot find a job comparable to the one she lost. Several speakers noted that there are four unemployed workers vying for each job that becomes available.
Following her at the podium were David DiCarlo, 45, of Baltimore, who had worked in the mortgage industry; Tony Federico, a bricklayer from the Bronx; and former transit worker Vincent Brandon, 47, of Pittsburgh, who said that if his benefits are allowed to expire, “I’d likely be homeless within a few months.” Brandon is a caregiver to his 5-year-old daughter, a veteran and a member of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 85.
DiCarlo said that he had applied for “hundreds of jobs” since he was laid off in March, but he said, holding up two fingers, he has been granted only that many interviews.
Many lawmakers, all Democrats, also called on Congress to reauthorize the unemployment extension program, including Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House minority whip, and House members Danny K. Davis (Ill.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), John Lewis (Ga.), Jim McDermott (Wash.), Charles Rangel (N.Y.) and Robert C. Scott (Va.). Workers also heard from Sens. Jack Reed (R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Tom Harkin (Iowa), who promised that he would ensure that the Senate did not leave for Christmas recess without taking a vote on the reauthorization bill.
When your job gets shipped overseas, you want help fast. You don’t want to decode reams of fine print to get that help.
The AFL-CIO Working America Institute (WAI) has cracked the code of the highly respected federal Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and created a new website to help workers devastated by outsourcing get the help they need.
At TAAhelps.org, a simple, engaging animation, introduces TAA’s benefits, including training, health care and income support and job-hunt resources. It’s easy to quickly click through benefit details—and jump to a resource page that breaks down the process of TAA certification.
Short videos of workers who have benefited from TAA bring home the crucial role this program has played for more than 50 years in helping some 280,000 workers start a new chapter in their lives.
The AFL-CIO’s WAI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating good jobs and building strong communities. The TAAhelps site grew from a collaboration spearheaded by WAI with AFL-CIO state federations in California, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as the National Employment Law Project and the Workforce Development Institute.
If Congress doesn’t act to ensure 6 million longtime jobless workers don’t lose unemployment insurance (UI) next year, 2 million people desperately seeking work will lose the lifeline that’s helping them and their families get by on Jan. 1. Another 4 million will run out of help week by week next year.
Yet House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would rather spend the limited amount of time Congress has left this year to attack workers’ rights and workplace safety and health laws than exetend UI for workers struggling in an economy where there are more than four workers for every available job.
Tell Boehner and Congress it’s time to stop playing partisan politics. Click here to sign a petition to Congress demanding it act now to extend the emergency UI benefits program.
Tomorrow, a coalition of workers groups will deliver the petition to Congress during a rally where jobless workers will urge Congress to act before it’s too late for millions of working families.
Bill Redler of Omaha, Neb., knows both the hard times of the American construction worker today and the right way forward.
The union plumber, whose first child is on the way, tries not to spend a penny on anything, unless it’s made in America.
“I’ve gotten militant about it, and it turns out that it’s not that hard. We’ve got to quit buying from China. We’ve got to start taxing companies if they want to send jobs to China and then sell products here. That’s the bottom line. We need to be building everything here….Made in America,” he said.
Redler may be a plumber (and a major fan of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers) who has worked on just about anything that involves pipes, but he knows that without manufacturing jobs, America’s economy has no solid base.
“There’s no work in this town right now,” he said. “It’s been like that for about three years. I’d work for a while, get laid off for about a month. It was hit and miss…here and there….Right now, there are 115 guys sitting.”
Redler’s most recent layoff was more than a month ago. He’ll soon travel to Washington to fight for jobs and an extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. A record number of workers have been unable to find jobs for 99 weeks or more…more than 6 million. He hopes he won’t find himself in that situation, but he knows it could happen. And he knows it’s time for action.
“We know how to organize and demand what’s right, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Redler said.
Terry Maile’s supervisor called her into a conference room with all of her co-workers to hear the news: It was their last day of employment at Level 3 Communications in Pittsburgh.
That was it. The jobs were gone to India.
“I couldn’t stop crying,” said Maile, a divorced mother of one, who until that moment had spent her professional life as a telecommunications worker before being laid off first by Verizon and then by Level 3.
Even then, Maile said, she still believed in the American Dream.
You’ve got to work hard… work hard.
Maile owned her own home. Although she had been forced to liquidate her retirement after the Verizon layoff, she had begun to build it back up. Then came the Level 3 layoff. It shook her to her core.
That was my defining moment. I was filling out paperwork, and I couldn’t help it…. I was just crying and crying. I said, ‘They don’t understand…. We’re all interconnected.’
Ten years ago, back when Maile worked at Verizon, she earned $75,000 a year. At Level 3, she was paid $50,000. Today, she makes $8.50 an hour at a retail job. She applies for professional jobs every day. Sometimes her application is one of 400.
Maile, 58, plans to travel to Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks to raise her voice for benefits for the long-term unemployed. If Congress fails to act before leaving town for the year, benefits will expire for workers who have searched fruitlessly for jobs for more than 99 weeks. Some 6 million workers will stop receiving weekly compensation of about $300.
Maile plans to campaign constantly for jobless workers.
I had been blaming myself, until I realized what’s happening, until I learned more about corporate greed. And then I got active….There is a way out, for all of us, and it’s with collective action. We don’t have another choice. All of us need to stand together.