Retirees fight for young workers

Published on People’s World, by Scott Marshall, January 12 2010.

One thing most of us in South Chicago SOAR (Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees) have in common is children and grandchildren. Given that unemployment is above 25% for teenagers and worse for African American and Latino youth, we worry about it a lot. Even our kids and grandkids with skills and college educations are catching it. What could be more frustrating than working hard to learn a trade, or going to college, only to graduate with no prospects for work?

Steelworker retirees tend to think like this so our bull sessions often quickly turn into “what can we do about this.” So it was natural for us to start kicking around ideas about how to fight for jobs and the unemployed. We established a “Jobs or Income Now” committee to help get us going. We drafted a petition calling on Congress to:  

  • 1) Recognize the right to a job for all – if private industry cannot create enough jobs then the federal government must create public service jobs similar to the Works Progress Administration in the Great Depression. It’s time for a stimulus program that rebuilds our infrastructure and actually puts people back to work. And to provide:
  • 2) Unemployment compensation for the duration of unemployment,
  • 3) Unemployment compensation for first time jobs seekers.

It’s that last demand that helps put the fight for young workers up front. Think of the pressure it would put on Congress to find money for youth jobs programs if first time job seekers could collect unemployment until they got a job. And why not? Young people just starting out have bills and basic needs like everyone else. (This is also one reason why our SOAR chapter has been so active in the fight for health care reform. Many of us also have kids who are without basic coverage).

We’re getting a great response to our petition. And we’re using it to make contact and gather around us the unemployed themselves in this fight for jobs. We have begun setting up appointments with members of Congress to discuss legislation that moves in this direction. We are joining with others to support the labor movement’s efforts on jobs including the exciting new Jobs for America Now national coalition. We’ll be on the phones and in the streets for passage of health care reform and for the jobs legislation that is now before Congress … (full text).

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