Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Youth unemployment disaster

In response to article in GoLocal Worcester by Adam Drici, http://www.golocalworcester.com/news/report-1-in-7-ma-young-adults-unemployed/
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The job situation for young adults and teens in Worcester is indeed very serious. We don't know what the real unemployment rate is, but it could be quite high - because the official U-3 unemployment rate doesn't count anyone with any sort of job, even a few hours a week work on a family business, and especially because it doesn't count anyone who has never held a job!

The article quite rightly points to the problem of older workers taking the "starter jobs" that would go to teens and young adults. Older workers are getting hammered. Men and women with 30-year careers behind them are having to take whatever they can find to survive. And that's not a figure of speech. That is literally what is at stake for them. And teens who outgrow their family homes and need to go stay on someone else's couch - that couch is already taken by an unemployed aunt or uncle!

It isn't just about finding a way to earn income. Starter jobs are where youth learn how to be a worker - how to show up on time every day, how to take direction and respect the authority of a supervisor, how to do tasks impeccably and maintain a cheerful attitude no matter how you feel inside and more. Say what you will about MacDonalds, it's a place where you can learn these skills. And they are real skills and take a lot of learning. For far too many youth there is no place to go now to learn them! And as the workplace standards we used to have continue to degenerate, a growing climate of hostility and suspicion is poisoning even this well. (Hopefully this will be offset by what for young folk will be a new tradition of solidarity as workers self-organize in the fast food industry and workplaces like WalMart.)

Drici's article has uncovered some wonderful programs. The Worcester Unemployment Action Group (WUAG)is an active participant in the Community Labor Coalition and has shown up for Worcester SAGE Alliance and Worcester Roots events and applauds their efforts. And the workshops at Workforce Central have much to offer. But this unemployment catastrophe is outgrowing the model of a program with a paid staff. A political effort is called for, one that can bring thousands out for political rallies and events and to pressure the politicians and corporations, one that can grow exponentially, unconstrained by available funding.

WUAG invites unemployed youth to join with us in the effort over the coming weeks to defend the social safety net they and their families need to survive the hard times, which are the target of the Fiscal Cliff circus the politicians have set up. And we invite youth to join with us in building an irresistible demand for a major jobs program like the WPA and a public commitment and program for full employment for all, like the Humphrey Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act that Congressman McGovern is co-sponsoring.

Perhaps the time is right now also for a broad youth conference on unemployment.
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