Unemployed Nation Hearings

Hearings on unemployment to continue in state capitol

Jul 16 2012

On Monday, July 23 a hearing on unemployment will take place in Olympia, WA, a joint work session of the Washington State Legislature's Senate Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee and the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee. The hearing will take place at 10:00am in House Hearing Room A of the John L. O'Brien Building.

The hearing follows from Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles's participation in the March 30th Unemployed Nation event. The session will address questions such as: Who are the unemployed and what are its consequences? How does it affect college graduates and young adults? And where do we go from here?

Among the speakers will be unemployed people sharing their stories. Also testifying will be University of Washington professors James Gregory, Charles Hirschman, and Marcia Meyers, who were participants in the March Unemployed Nation Hearings.

For a full agenda, visit the Washington State House Committee on Labor & Workforce Development website.

Hearings to Air on UWTV

Jun 29 2012

The first day of the Unemployed Hearings, held at the University of Washington on March 30, 2012, have been edited into an hour-long program that will air regularly on UWTV (Channel 27 in the Puget Sound Region). The first three air dates scheduled:

  • Thursday, July 12, 4:00pm
  • Friday, July 13, 12:00am (midnight)
  • Friday, July 13, 1pm

The edited program is also available to watch on the UWTV website.

Personal Testimony: Larry in Seattle, WA

Apr 12 2012

Seattle resident Larry Neilson testified March 30, 2012 at the Unemployed Nation Hearings. What follows is his testimony.

Thank you for having me here at Unemployment Nation. And greetings from the underwater position of 3 years and counting of almost complete unemployment. My last extension of UI ran out 15 months ago.

Living with no income is a minor art, including maximizing one’s eligibility for available benefits, concealing one’s assets, begging, and when needed, by outright fraud.  Not that I condone fraud; as a one-time taxpayer, I frown on it in general; but in desparate circumstances, one does what one has to in order to survive and protect one's remaining dignity.

I have all but given up looking for a full-time job because with age discrimination in hiring, it is a complete waste of time applying.  I once was a mid-level bureaucrat in the County government, and before that a buyer in the Ad business. These are now considered the province of the younger and more energetic members of the workforce, and people of my years and experience are considered old, dried-up wrecks unworthy of consideration. Let them starve! As for medical benefits, you heard the Republican debate audience:  Let them die!

I advertise my services free-lance.  After many moons of little or no interest, as the economy improves, I am getting some nibbles. So far this has generated less than $100 a month. This has left me dependent on my 86-yo mother for more than half my rent. While she has made no complaint, it is not fair for her to fork over so much of her retirement income to support me.  In effect, our family is "eating its seed corn," for when these savings are exhausted, there is nothing to replace them except selling our home. But if it weren't for my Mom, I would be back sleeping in my car, as I did the previous winter (2011-12).  I am, I hope, appropriately grateful.  Even a home infested with bedbugs is preferable to sleeping in an unheated vehicle.

Press: Stories from the jobless

Apr 4 2012

By Steve Leigh
From Socialist Worker

SEATTLE--The King County Labor Council and the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at University of Washington held two days of hearings March 30-31 on the problem of unemployment in the Seattle area, called "Unemployed Nation Hearings."

The purpose of the hearings was to highlight the grave issue of unemployment. As the program said:

More than 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed...they could populate a nation, a distressed and forgotten nation, a nation whose voice remains unheard...The Great Recession has been accompanied by a great silence. We hope to help unemployed workers find a louder voice and a broader audience.

At the hearing in City Hall in Seattle on March 31, about 75 people heard from a panel of unemployed workers being questioned by social service activists. The hearing started with opening words from Mayor Mike McGinn. McGinn outlined the devastating effects of the recession on Seattle.

Press: Collateral damage of lost jobs

Apr 4 2012

By Jerry Large
From The Seattle Times

I enjoy payday, and it's not just because it means I can keep on paying my bills.

That's a big part of it, but, I also feel good that I've earned money doing something that I (and my employer) think has value.

Because work is important in multiple ways, it stands to reason that not having a job would do damage beyond the immediate lack of money. And that means the effects of this prolonged economic downturn will leave long-lasting scars. A project called Unemployed Nation has been capturing the stories of jobless people and exploring what being without work means for them.

Even as people return to work, they are left with economic gaps that are unlikely to be closed. Those gaps will affect future retirement and children's educational prospects among other things.

Press: It gets better?

Apr 4 2012

By Aaron Burkhalter
From Real Change News

The It Gets Better campaign created an online movement to normalize homosexuality and push the conversation about homophobic bullying into the mainstream.

People across the country started posting inspirational messages on YouTube to young gay students, telling them their lives would improve.

The movement, started by gay activist Dan Savage, caught on quickly. Celebrities and even President Barack Obama posted videos of their own.

A new campaign, Unemployed Nation,  hopes similar YouTube videos can remove the stigma of unemployment by putting a face on the issue.

People are posting YouTube videos at unemployednation.org to share their experience of joblessness.

Participants in these online conversations will also meet face-to-face in two days of hearings convened by the King County Labor Council and academics at the University of Washington.

Panels of unemployed people will speak at hearings March 30 at the University of Washington and March 31 at Seattle City Hall.

But where Savage’s campaign promised things will get better for gay youth, there are no such assurances for the long-term unemployed.

Press: Personal Struggles Shared During Unemployed Nation Hearings

Apr 4 2012

By Lily Katz
From The Daily

“If I don’t have any value to anyone else, what kind of value do I have to myself?” asked Colin McMullin, a Washington native and Boeing engineer who was laid off in 2009. “The last three years have been the toughest years of my life.”

McMullin and other Washingtonians came to the Walker-Ames Room of Kane Hall last Friday to share their stories of unemployment at the Unemployed Nation Hearings.

The hearings were organized by the UW Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, the Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Council, the Washington State Labor Council, and several other campus sponsors.

James Gregory, director of the Harry Bridges Center, was especially inspired to organize the hearings after seeing three-quarters of his class raise their hands when he asked if his students knew someone who has struggled with unemployment in the Great Recession.

Press: 'Unemployed Nation' Packs Tearful Stories

Apr 4 2012

By Katherine McKeon
From The Seattle Weekly

Sandwiched between sweater-vested academics, local people affected by the sputtering economy emotionally relayed their personal struggles with finding work during today's Unemployed Nation Hearings.

At first glance, both types of experts are indistinguishable from each other. But the people who don't call the ivory tower home sang the clearer tunes.

One testimony came from a middle-aged family man, a former engineer at Boeing. Having been unemployed for three years, he said technology firms look for young people, not for people who have two degrees and two kids.

"No matter how many resumes I send out, I don't even get a response," he said. "If I don't have any value to anyone else, what kind of value do I have for myself? It's a very demeaning experience, and it's apparent to my family and friends."

Another witness, a woman who was laid off from her work at a vocational job-placement office, told those in attendance she once found herself in line with over 300 people, all applying for one position.

Opinion: Listening to the 'hidden nation' of the unemployed

Mar 20 2012

Crosscut EditorialBy James Gregory
From CrossCut

The Great Recession has been accompanied by a great silence. We read statistics about the unemployed but don't see faces or hear voices of the jobless. This at a time when unemployment places a greater burden on families and on society than at any point since the Great Depression.

Why do we not learn their stories and see their faces in newspapers and on television? The unemployed have never been so hidden.

In the Great Depression, it took a while for unemployed workers to find their voices. People found it embarrassing and confusing to be out of work. Joblessness led to social hibernation then, as it does now.

But two to three years into the Depression the jobless were speaking out, forming organizations, seeking solutions. and demanding that politicians pay attention. In city after city, unemployed men and women became vocal and visible, reshaping elections and ultimately the American economy.