Summertime Unemployment Blues

Summer usually brings the expectation of good times – when people can look forward to vacations, have time to spend with family and friends, time to kick back and relax. We try to use the summer to take a little more time to enjoy life. But, for many it isn’t happening like it should.

Without a job – all you have is time and no money. And for those who are working, it seems like we have no time and still not enough money. Our lives are under attack – whether we are working or not.

Today’s unemployment figures only begin to tell the story. In June, the official national rate of unemployment was 9.5 percent; 25.8 million workers are either unemployed or underemployed. In California, unemployment is close to 12.5 percent. And in many places it is much higher – 18 percent in Merced and more than 19 percent in Yuba City and as high in Oakland. The real level of unemployment is at least twice as high as these figures. Only those who have applied and are eligible for unemployment benefits are counted. That leaves out lots of people – almost all young people who have never had a job and those who have suffered long-term unemployment, not to mention those who are underemployed – working part time when they would like to work full time.

Those who face the highest unemployment are Blacks, Latinos, and recent immigrants. In these communities, young people, especially, with no experience face a harsh reality. If they can find a job, it is usually comes with a low wage and a lot of disrespect. No wonder so many turn to the streets to find a solution.

The government has done little for laid off workers. This summer when it came time to extend unemployment benefits, Congress turned its back on people and left on vacation. While the politicians were enjoying their vacations, people’s benefits ran out. Around 425,000 people in California and 2.5 million nationwide lost their unemployment benefits. Those workers and their families faced the prospect of having no income whatsoever. And just as easily as they turned their backs on those workers, two weeks later, these same politicians returned to Washington and extended the benefits (for some). Those who have collected for 99 weeks are now totally cut off!

A couple years ago, these same politicians didn’t waste any time helping out the big banks and corporations – handing them an estimated 13 trillion-dollar bail-out. Now the big corporations are doing better than ever, with an enormous jump in profits. The largest corporations say they now have a total of 2 trillion dollars in cash on hand

The heads of these corporations, say they have no intention of hiring new workers at this point. Why should they? While they increase production, the additional work is pushed on the remaining workers. When workers get injured or sick or leave, there are still no replacements.  Workers everywhere are told that they are “lucky to have a job.” With every passing day it becomes clearer. This system is working for the rich. But it is not working for us.

There is no reason for anyone to be out of work. There is plenty of work to be done. We need more mass transit, improved housing, schools, recreation centers, parks, schools and more! Our work should be interesting, enjoyable and focused on meeting the needs of the majority of the people; not devoted to producing wealth to line the pockets of the rich. Our summers, as well as the rest of our days, should be full and enjoyable. All that stands in the way is a small minority of people who are busy trying to convince us that we can’t live without them. Well, we can!