Emmelle Israel, AFL-CIO Media Outreach fellow, sends us this.
“Unemployed, Not Undeserving”—the first-ever congressional briefing on Asian American and Pacific Islander unemployment and job creation—yesterday brought to light issues of long-term unemployment, income inequality, and the need for bold jobs legislation as it relates to Asian American and Pacific Islander workers.
Sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the briefing included Reps. Mike Honda and Judy Chu of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, who said applauded the briefing for lifting up Asian American and Pacific Islander voices into the national discussion on the jobs crisis.
Honda stressed the importance of “chiming up, chiming in” on the issues:
Unemployment hit Asian Americans in different ways, sometimes unnoticed… We need to make sure the discussion includes us.
As a group, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have higher than average levels of education and an unemployment rate nearly 2 percentage points lower than the national average. But a breakdown of the statistics reveals that a monolithic view of AAPIs obscures the problems a variety of AAPI workers face.
Nicole Woo of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) pointed out the diverse ethnic groups categorized as Asian American and Pacific Islanders have weathered the economic crisis with varying degrees of difficulty. For example, according to a 2009 report by CEPR, although Japanese workers are experiencing a 4.5 percent unemployment rate, Laotian workers suffer an unemployment rate of 13.7 percent, a rate higher than the average Latino unemployment. Samoan communities fare even worse with an unemployment rate of 17.8 percent, putting them in similarly dire economic straits as black communities where, unemployment is 16.3 percent.
In addition, Asian American and Pacific Islanders who are unemployed are more likely than any other group to remain unemployed for six months or more. Marlene Kim, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Boston Massachusetts, detailed the long term unemployment dilemma that specifically plagues highly educated AAPI workers in spite of their advanced degrees.
Cheryl Kono, an unemployed school counselor and member of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, is one such worker. Even with her years of experience and a Master’s Degree in Social Work, she has been laid off consecutively for the past three years. Unfortunately, this is the one year she has not been able to fight and get her job back.
This is the first time in my life that I have ever been unemployed … Unemployment has been challenging, both psychologically and financially… My family and I have had to significantly cut back … I’ve experienced a significant loss of my professional identity.
Kono put her newly acquired free time to good use by volunteering with UTLA as an advocate for teachers and support staff who’ve been left without jobs in the wake of cuts to public education. She urged passage of the American Jobs Act as a way to get educators and others without jobs back to work.
Chu agreed on the need to pass major jobs legislation:
The American Jobs Act is so important. We have a big job to do… we have to build momentum and make it essential to pass [the American Jobs Act]. You have to raise your voices and tell the truth about what’s going on with Asian Americans and with jobs across the country.