Nationwide Demonstrations to Demand Extensions of Unemployment, TANF Emergency Fund
Actions Target Senators post Thanksgiving Recess
NATIONWIDE - Starting last week, Jobs with Justice coalitions in dozens of cities have been challenging senators to extend unemployment benefits, TANF or create a jobs plan that would put people back to work immediately. 15 million Americans are out of work, and with out a major federal investment in creating jobs, (official) jobless rates will be 8-13% into the next decade. Meanwhile, corporations are sitting on more than $8 trillion in reserves that could be used to create jobs.
As 2 million Americans are being cut off from their existing unemployment benefits, coalitions around the country are demanding something be done. Last week, Food and Medicine Jobs with Justice in Maine were targeting Senators Snowe and Collins during their solidarity harvest last week with this on their agenda. Activists in Philadelphia are targeting Senator Spector to do the right thing on his way out. And Central Florida Jobs with Justice is pushing Senator Nelson not to extend the Bush tax cuts later this week.
Unemployment benefits have helped keep more than 3.3 million jobless workers and their families out of poverty.  Moreover, before hitting the campaign trail Congress failed to extend the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) emergency fund, which subsidized jobs for nearly 250,000 otherwise unemployed parents and youth. Never before have federal jobless benefits been cut when unemployment levels were so high (9.6%) for so long.
"I lost my home and my family, and now I'm on the verge of being homeless," said Rafael Guzman, a transit worker in Orlando, Florida who has been unemployed since August 2008 and is in line to lose his benefits. "If Congress can't create new jobs for people like me, they have to at least provide us with the unemployment benefits to help us get through this crisis."
While the core demands of the protests are to extend unemployment benefits and the TANF emergency fund, Jobs with Justice coalitions from Richmond to San Francisco are struggling under the banner of full and fair employment - including passage of legislation like Local Jobs for America Act which would save or create 1 million jobs along with the passage of a Financial Speculation Tax that would rein in the more destabilizing aspects of Wall Street and generate $200-$500 billion annually.
"Nationwide, the "jobs deficit" is about 11 million, with 5 job-seekers for every job opening," said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice. "When Wall Street was in crisis, Congress found hundreds of billions of dollars to bail them out. We need to respond to the jobs crisis with the same urgency."
For a list of cities planning actions and to learn more, visit www.jwj.org/jobs.
Jobs with Justice is a national network of 47 local coalitions that bring together more than 1,500 labor unions, faith groups, community organizations and student activists to fight for working people.