Stimulus Funds Must Acknowledge Employment Gap

(Also published on Daily Kos.)

Widely regarded as the last opportunity to enjoy summer with a three-day weekend of cookouts and trips to the beach, Labor Day, the United States Department of Labor’s website informs us, was originally intended as “a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country”. Ironically, this year’s tribute comes in the form of the announcement that the national unemployment rate has reached 9.7 percent, its highest level in 26 years. The increasing unemployment rate is one of the most disturbing results of the economic recession which became the subject of newspaper articles a little more than a year ago.

The consequences of the current economic crisis are serious for the nation as a whole but are particularly critical for communities of color. On its website, www.fairrecovery.org, in which the ACLU participates as a partner, the Kirwan Institute for Race and Ethnicity reports that although the nation has been in a recession for a little more than a year, communities of color have been experiencing a recession for nearly five years and, in the course of the last year, have moved into a depression. If the terms “recession” and “depression” are too abstract, the unemployment statistics are clear and concrete. While the rest of the country watches apprehensively as overall unemployment figures approach 10 percent, communities of color have been experiencing double-digit unemployment for some time.

In July, 2009, Latino unemployment levels stood at 12.2 percent while the unemployment rate of African-Americans was 14.7 percent. Sadly, even being employed is no guarantee of opportunity for people of color because of the fact that they are far more likely to be employed in low-wage jobs. For these workers, many of whom are immigrants, wage theft and exploitation runs rampant. Three discrete groups are particularly vulnerable to abuse, discrimination, and human rights violations (PDF): domestic and agricultural workers, temporary workers (or guestworkers), and undocumented workers.

Not all of the news is bad, however. In fact, the increase in the unemployment rate appears to be slowing enough for Jared Bernstein, one of Vice President Joe Biden’s economic advisors, to remark that “[t]he overall message in these numbers is that we’re headed in the right direction but we’re far from out of the woods.” Many economists believe that the infusion of federal stimulus funds may have insulated the economy from even more serious negative consequences.

If that is true, it is especially important that the positive effects of stimulus funds be felt by everyone in the nation, particularly those segments of the population who started the recession behind the rest of the nation and have been particularly battered by the effects of the recession. For that reason, the fairrecovery.org website was created to facilitate the effort to use stimulus funding as a means of assuring equal opportunity for all.

Labor Day serves as a reminder of the way that employment remains an area in which there is inequality and by which “the strength, prosperity and well-being of the nation” can be strengthened and reinforced by efforts to assure that all communities are given the opportunity to enjoy the full benefits of their labor.

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Maggie

Usually I will give the ACLU the benefit of the doubt but this article is the most disgusting and demeaning thing I have ever read. I have friends of all colors who have lost their jobs, homes, family and have been experiencing serious depression.

How dare you put a racial tone on this situation. The entire country is suffering and is in need of not only jobs, but support of their family, friends and neighbors and yes even the ACLU. Not all people of color have low paying jobs and not all white people have high paying jobs. No wonder people don't like you. Not only are you making a bad situation worse you are encouraging more racial tension. The very thing you are suppose to be against.

The Jurist

The wage thefts recovery efforts were not as priority for employers and agencies; the stimulus was being said to be the recovery efforts for the recession. The employers and the agencies have not corrected their wage thefts(discrete abuses) pursuant to recent document release.

Dave

Maggie sorry, but even before the recession began black were at a disadvantage in this country. Yes its a racial issue. Were I grew up it was illegal for blacks to go to high school. The only high school was for whites only, and there was no black high school. The unemployed black rate is actually around 40%. While your at it maybe one of your neighbors could water you twice a week. Sorry to insult house plants.

Maggie

Dave not even worth a response.

eric wess

Here in Florida many powerful law firms, news papers, and radio stations employ part time workers and entry office help and do not pay workers comp on these hard workers. That's just wrong. The Florida Insurance Board prefers to tackle smaller companies for obvious reasons. You can report all suspect employers anonymously to the state of Florida at; www.apps.fldfs.com/noncompliance_referral/mainpage.aspx

Anonymous

If so many blacks were not in jail for committing a larger percentage of crimes , their unemployment rate would be lower maybe?

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