The United States is maintaining the worst long-term unemployment since the Great Depression, and there are no serious government or business plans to overcome it.
In early April, 2011, news came that MIchigan, one of the stronger union states, had cut the standard 26-week unemployment benefits to 20 weeks! Even in a whirlwind of anti-labor legislation nationwide, this was a shock! Clearly, America's unemployed, at least 10% of the population, are not sufficiently represented.
The American labor movement is springing to the assistance of the unemployed, but has very few specialists and specialist organizations. An exception is the Machinists' Union (IAM) which established an on-line virtual attempt to organize all unemployed. (Ucubed, http://www.unionofunemployed.com) A lot of unemployed work is being done locally by Jobs with Justice chapters, but such activists groups hold little appeal for the unemployed themselves. As of this writing, there are only a handful of actual unemployed councils being created around the country.
During the 1930s, effective unemployment councils were formed. They were quasi-legal and often made their reputation by standing up against authorities. One of the ways they helped was to defy evictions. After a Sheriff's Department ahd put an evictee's furniture on the sidewalk, members of the unemployed councils would put it back and re-install the evicted family as "squatters" in their own home! Dallas' own Carl Brannin gained a reputation in those days as one of the activists who would help move furniture to the back door while the Sheriff was moving it out the front door.
The unemployed councils also assisted union organizing. A wonderful example is the United Auto Workers Union. Many of their first members were signed up while unemployed during annual plant re-tooling shutdowns. When workers went back into the auto plants, they were already organized!
Although its history is not yet written, there was a substantial workers council in Fort Worth, Texas, during the early thirties. It is not unreasonable to assume that their efforts helped account for the thousands of jobs that later came into Tarrant County through government work projects.
Unemployed workers have few major interests other than securing good employment. The kinds of help they need have to relate to that. Many services are available through the Texas Workforce Commission, but undocumented workers, a significant part of the unemployed, have no access.
Not many good jobs are secured from the Want Ads. Almost any expert will agree that job seekers' best tactic is networking. Just coming together with other underemployed people may be the greatest help.
We will also need a complete referral service, including referrals to food help, child care, computer instruction, language instruction, and transportation help.
Yes they are, but our Union of Underemployed would not legally be a union. We would not organize workers and represent them in contract negotiations with employers. We have it on good authority that we would be an advocacy support group, more or less the same thing that North Texas Jobs with Justice is today.
Start with a killer web site.
It makes no sense to spend the money to open an office for the unemployed before setting up an adequate on-line presence. Web sites and e-mail interactions are very cheap and, long run, may have a lot more effect than brick and mortar. We should have an internet presence that can:
We can develop our system on this site, then we could establish a separate web page.. Once we are confident of our on-line work, we can start plans for a physical center.
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