Keep benefits for the jobless

December 3, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore--A group of unemployed workers held a press conference and rally downtown on November 29 to highlight the plight of the 2 million U.S. workers who were cut off from their benefits the next day.

Oregon has an official unemployment rate of 10.6 percent. Already, 19,000 Oregonians have exhausted all benefits according to Employment Department spokesman Craig Spivey, with another 600 joining them each week. And by next April, this will increase to 10,000 each week.

Eleyna Fugman, who has been in and out of work for 18 months, pointed out what an untenable situation this is, saying, "For every one job there are five people needing one. How would cutting benefits benefit the situation?"

As Francisco Holdman, a single parent and a vet who has been out of work since 2008, said:

As a single parent, the thought of losing unemployment insurance benefits right now is not only discouraging, it is frightening. My family would most likely be homeless, and it would be impossible for me to provide the Christmas my children deserve. It is outrageous that Congress is considering ending benefits for the most needy and giving tax breaks to the most greedy during this season.

The rally was organized by the Sunnyside Self-Help Employment Group and was supported by Jobs with Justice, the International Socialist Organization, members of United Steel Workers Local 1570 and the Painters Union District 5.

Nick and Lonnie, two steelworkers from Albany, 40 minutes south of Portland, came to support the rally having seen the devastating effects of unemployment on their community. The shutting of a paper mill and the severe cutback at a forging plant where they work has led to 20 percent of this small town being out of work.

The unemployed group also pointed out that Congress has failed to extend Temporary Aid for Needy Families, which will put more pressure on poor people.

Unemployed people need an indefinite extension, not just stop-gap three month extensions which lead to anguish, uncertainty and instability. As it will take 300,000 people a month to be hired for the next five years just to get back to the pre-crisis level of unemployment, unemployed workers are going to have to organize to put pressure on politicians for full funding of all benefits and not tax cuts for the rich.

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