Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Unemployed workers, Teamsters, lawmakers rally to restore unemployment benefits

Teamsters crammed into this Capitol Hill room today to support
unemployment benefits extensions. 
Teamsters, jobless workers, union activists, faith leaders and members of Congress crammed into a Capitol Hill visitor room today for a rally to push for the renewal of unemployment insurance. Cut off from emergency aid since last month are 1.4 million workers struggling to find jobs.

The rally was held one day after a successful Senate vote to move forward a bill that would continue Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) for the long-term unemployed.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi led the rally calling on House Republicans to follow the Senate’s lead:
We know that these benefits for unemployed workers are put back into the economy and boost growth by creating demand. The numbers speak for themselves. But today we have families and unemployed workers here to tell the human side of this story. 
Unemployed workers affected by Congress’s inaction on unemployment insurance stood behind members of Congress and other leaders, including Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

Dozens of jobless workers from Casey's home state of Pennsylvania took part in the rally, holding up signs that said “1.4 million reasons to extend EUC” and “These checks feed my family.”

Said Sen. Casey,
In Pennsylvania alone, more than 73,000 people have been affected by the cuts to unemployment benefits. The number of people lifted out of poverty thanks to EUC just in Pennsylvania is over 196,000.
Sen. Reed added,
These people are our neighbors. And yet when they are most vulnerable, we cut them off from the support they desperately need while they look for work. We have to remain relentless, persistent and dissatisfied until these benefits are restored.
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa sent letters to every member of Congress yesterday urging them to vote the right way:
The EUC program already helped millions of Americans avoid the grip of poverty during the great recession. With an estimated one job currently available for every three job seekers, the labor market is structurally unable to employ all of those who have been removed from the EUC program. The long-term unemployed face an especially uphill battle, with approximately 37% of the unemployed having been out of work for over 26 weeks. 
Teamsters and other union members joined faith leaders like Rev. Michael Livingston from the National Council of Churches who spoke to the moral outrage of leaving jobless workers to fend for themselves.

Since Congress failed to renew emergency unemployment insurance in December, anti-worker lawmakers in Washington have barely been able to concealed their disdain for the unemployed, using their tired – and utterly false – talking points about unemployment benefits breeding laziness among workers.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka said right-wing leaders in the House opposing unemployment benefits are trying to spin their position as if they are trying to help workers:
There’s nothing compassionate about denying unemployment insurance to people who are out of work. This will continue to be a PR disaster for right-wing leaders in Congress because cutting unemployment benefits is a human disaster. More than two-thirds of Americans want to extend jobless benefits – with no strings attached.
As if workers haven’t suffered enough at the hands of corporate puppets in Congress, House Republicans insist that any extension of unemployment benefits be accompanied by cuts to other parts of the social safety net. And with three workers for every available job in this economy, the right-wing’s only “jobs program” is more tax cuts for the rich.

Lawmakers at today’s rally vowed to continue fighting to renew EUC. Nevada Rep. Steve Horsford said,
We need to ask members of Congress if they know what it’s like to be unemployed. Because when you talk to these unemployed Americans, we know this is personal.
You can help. Call your representatives in Congress and tell them to vote to extend unemployment benefits. Just click  here.