The Jobs Now Press Conference put out a strong message: our community needs jobs not cuts. On the day when the unemployment figures were released highlighting that Atlanta continues to face crippling unemployment and underemployment, especially in communities of color, we had the opportunity to hear the stories of our community members.
We heard from George Steed a working father that despite working two jobs still relies on federal assistance to support his family and to pay the rent. George says that we need quality jobs with decent wages. "I'm smiling but I'm crying on the inside."
Tonya Pinkston has been searching for a job for two years. Tonya wants to work at a job that doesn't put her in a position to have to choose between feeding her daughter or putting shoes on her daughter's feet. "We want to go back to work, we want to help restore America." Tonya wants to work so that she can pay off her student debt. Tonya asked, "am I being picky if I want a job that allows me to keep my lights on? Am I being picky to strive for a job that enables me to reach the American dream?"
Adam Valdez is a recent college graduate struggling with debt. He was turned away from a job because he was "overqualified." Adam believes we need jobs that offer a fair wage to their employees.
Kennith Beasley representing the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) spoke about the manufactured crisis for the United States Postal Service (USPS). The USPS receives no tax dollars from the US government. A Bush era policy forcing USPS to "pre pay" health care costs for folks not yet hired is the source of the Post Office budget issues. Our country needs good middle class USPS jobs, it is not the time to cut 120,000 USPS jobs. Support HR 1351.
Senator Nan Orrock highlighted the fact that local public sector jobs are being cut. Public sector jobs and USPS jobs largely support workers of color. During an unemployment crisis it is not the time to cut good public sector jobs, nor is it the time "for the labor commissioner to cut the unemployment check of those looking for work."
Senator Vincent Fort highlighted Bank of America's role in the economic and unemployment crisis. Just this morning he called Bank of America to stop them from foreclosing the home of a couple in their 80's. Fort says the Georgia Labor commissioner's solution to the unemployment crisis is to cut back on unemployment benefits to those looking for work. This is not the solution our community needs. "There is a war being declared on the dreams of working people."
Georgia State Professor Frederick Brooks III, spoke of the broader perspective of unemployment across various sectors and the reality of the situation: "The economists tell us that the recession ended 1.5 years ago yet in the real world of America, there's 14 million people looking for work"
Charmaine Davis the lead organizer for 9 to 5 Working Women and Atlanta Jobs with Justice co-chair facilitated the Press Conference, she highlighted that the Atlanta Metro Area had lost more jobs in 2010 than any other Metro Area in the United States. "Georgia continues to have the 3rd highest poverty rate in the country."
Ben Speight the lead organizer for the Teamsters local 728 and Atlanta Jobs with Justice co-chair spoke about the connection between Georgia having the 2nd lowest union density in the US to Georgia having the 3rd highest levels of poverty in the US. The Occupy Wall Street movement and other Occupy movements sprouting up in Atlanta and other cities that are shining a spot light on corporate greed, union busting and the banks foreclosing on working people must grow in strength and cohesion. Our communities depend on it.