Verizon employee Dan Manning is facing a layoff. He spoke to over 1,000 workers who rallied on the Boston Common, at Verizon HQ, and at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. (Photo by Rand Wilson)
Rally and report give voice to workers behind unemployment statistics
BOSTON—The figures are staggering. Unemployment is at 9.8 percent and new unemployment claims continue to increase. By one measure, real unemployment and underemployment are double the official rate. According to the Labor Department, job seekers now outnumber openings by six to one!
That's why more than 1,000 union members, unemployed workers, students, clergy and community leaders came together for an October 1 march and rally to highlight the growing jobs crisis.
The group protested on the Boston Common, at Verizon's New England headquarters and at the Hyatt Regency Hotel against a corporate agenda that has left far too many workers behind.
Eighty labor and community groups sponsored the march and rally. Accompanying the march was the IBEW Local 103 One Hundred and Third Drum and Bagpipe Band and the Somerville Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Marching Band.
The action also focused on how big banks have misused our tax dollars. So far, few of the hundreds of billions in taxpayer money that went to the big banks have reached Main Street.
"Economic recovery isn't a reality until we have an economy that works for everyone…and that means an economy in which everyone works," said Robert Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. "This march and rally is about the simple notion that good jobs are the key to a decent quality of life. We're calling out the corporate greed that ruined the job market."
While hardworking families are struggling to get by, many profitable companies are using the economy as an excuse to cut jobs. For example, the Hyatt Hotel, without warning, replaced its housekeepers with subcontracted workers, paid half their wages ($8 per hour) with no benefits.
"The Hyatt treated us with no respect when they fired us, and they insulted us even more by offering us temp agency jobs," said Lucine Williams, who worked for the Hyatt in downtown Boston for more than 21 years until she was laid off on August 31. "We want our jobs back, nothing else. We will not accept temp positions that are designed to put others out of work. We will not do to others what Hyatt has done to us."
Hyatt isn't the only company abusing its workers. "I know these are hard times, but with Verizon there's no excuse," said Dan Manning, a FiOS installation technician from Medway who is facing a layoff. "There is still plenty of work for us to do. Verizon management says it wants to provide high speed internet for America. Yet now it's orchestrating a slowdown by not marketing FiOS—just to get rid of us."
Because corporations don't pay their fair share in taxes, state and local governments are slashing critical public services and eliminating jobs—just when we should be expanding them.
"With my personal and professional experience, education and passion, I have the potential to be one of the biggest assets to the Department of Children and Families (DCF)," said Ana Kincaid, a recently laid off DCF social worker who was a client as a child. She continued:
Instead I am being let go from a job by the agency that set my passion on fire and my dreams afloat. Over 100 caseworkers and I have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Now I am living beyond my means. I am struggling to keep my apartment.
Young people have been especially hard hit. "My goal is to find employment at an organization where I can help make my community a better place," said Jordan McLaughlin, a recent college graduate frustrated by his lack of opportunities. "I've sent out over 100 resumes, where are the jobs?"
José Ulloa and his wife Carmen, bought their Chelsea condominium three years ago for nearly $250,000. When Carmen died and the family income fell to only one wage earner, José could no longer make the payments. Bank of America foreclosed on his house and is trying to evict him and his family. "I don't want to leave and let the big banks that caused this crisis win," said Ulloa. "I'm fighting to be able to buy my house back from Bank of America at its new appraised value."
But instead of working with Ulloa and thousands just like him, bank executives have lined their pockets with stock options that guarantee them huge windfalls for years to come.
Bank of America—which has yet to repay its federal bailout money—has come under fire for the way it handled last year's merger with Merrill Lynch and the billions of dollars in bonus paid to its executives.
In addition to the dozens of workers who spoke at the rally, the coalition released a short report, "We Need Jobs -- Not Greed! Voices of workers behind the unemployment statistics," that profiles eight workers from Massachusetts. Copies of the report are available from Rand Wilson by e-mailing rand mindspring.com.
Photos from march and rally may be viewed online here.