If we’re not already among the millions of people unemployed right now, we all know people who are. And even if we do have a job, the bosses certainly aren’t short on giving us threats about how lucky we are to have one and how they could take it away at any moment.
The misery of being unemployed is like being sick for so long you forget what it feels like to be healthy. Constant worrying about your family, applying for job after job with no callbacks, checking the mail every day for that unemployment check, feeling ashamed because you can’t find work, planning which friend or relative you have to call next for help – these are just some of the daily pains of being unemployed.
The latest government figures state that 15 million people are unemployed – 9.6 percent of the population. These numbers miss a lot. If you include both people who only work part-time but are looking for full-time work, and people who’ve been unemployed for so long they are off the official roles, there’s over 27 million people – 17 percent of the population – who are unemployed or can’t find a full-time job.
Even worse than being unemployed is being unemployed for a long time. And right now, over 40 percent of the unemployed, more than 6 million people, have been unemployed for more than six months. Unemployment hasn’t been this bad since the crisis in the 1930s. Not included in these numbers is another 4 million so-called “missing” workers who have been unemployed for so long they’ve been skipped by every statistic. These workers have fallen into extreme poverty and are living day-to-day, with uncertainty about tomorrow.
And just to add to the misery of unemployment, the government is once again considering cutting off unemployment benefits for those who’ve been unemployed six months or more. Cleary, the attitude of the politicians is that our lives and the lives of our friends and relatives don’t matter.
It is no surprise that so many people are staying unemployed. Unemployment is not something people are choosing because it is fun not having to show up for work. The reality is, there are not 27 million full-time jobs available. In fact, for at least the past three years, more jobs have been lost every month than the number of new jobs added. On average, there are 200 people applying for every single job opening. For some places, several thousands of people have shown up for about 100 jobs. Clearly the bosses just aren’t hiring.
While millions of people are suffering from the poverty of unemployment or underemployment, the bankers and the bosses are making record profits. The past two years have been record-breaking profit years for most of the giant banks and many corporations in almost every industry. And for workers, we all know where these profits are coming from.
The trillions of dollars taken in by the bankers and the bosses recently have come from our blood and sweat. At every workplace across the country, workers are feeling these squeeze of these profits the second we clock in. The number of workers on every shift is being cut, and so we end up having to work faster and do the job of two, three, sometimes four other workers. We’re having our schedules rearranged all the time so the bosses can get more out of us and pay less overtime. As our co-workers retire or are pushed out or fired, no one is replaced. And for those of us who remain, we’re seeing our benefits cut, along with either wage cuts, wage freezes, or the rare wage-increase that doesn’t even keep up with inflation costs.
The bankers and the bosses and their politicians are playing a game with our lives: They keep us unemployed, make us do all the work, and they get to keep all the profit. It’s time we stopped going along with it.