Members of the Living Wage Jobs Coalition waved signs, handed out fliers and talked about their cause with reporters and IDES clients.
“We’re here today because the (U.S.) Department of Labor’s monthly jobs report has just come out. I spoke with (Living Wage Jobs Coalition economist) Bill Barclay, and he tells me that this month’s report is pretty dismal,” said the group’s spokesman, Mary Shesgreen. “We need the federal government to make job creation its highest priority.”
The report stated that the economy produced an average of 94,000 new jobs each month in 2010. That isn’t enough to employ the average of 110,000 people who joined the work force each month, let alone the estimated 15 million people who have lost their jobs during the current recession, Shesgreen noted.
While the nationwide unemployment rate dropped from 9.8 percent to 9.4 percent in December, half of that decrease represents people who are still unemployed but who aren’t counted because they are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits, said Shesgreen.
Forty-four percent of people who still receive unemployment benefits have been jobless for more than six months, the report states. Almost 9 million people with jobs are underemployed or are working part time when they’d rather be working full time, Shesgreen added.
Shesgreen and her comrades are lobbying for a federal program that would let federal agencies directly hire workers for government-funded projects, much like the Works Progress Administration did during the 1930s.
Too much of the money spent on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act went to private corporations that ran building projects subsidized by the act, Shesgreen said.
“Lawmakers, especially Republicans, talk like it’s almost immoral to help ordinary Americans with tax money. They always say it’s better to bail out big corporations,” Shesgreen said. “We’re here to challenge that whole set of assertions.”
Living Wage Jobs Coalition members are working to support U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ upcoming bill to raise money for a federal jobs program by levying a one-quarter percent tax on each stock and bond transaction in the U.S. markets, said coalition member Steve Bruesewitz.
“Not only would the tax raise money to support job creation, it would dampen speculation and divert more money into real investments, which also would help create jobs,” he said.
Bruesewitz, who also protests regularly with Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice, said the LWJC will appear throughout the Fox Valley to spread its message.
“The next time we rally we had better get better weather,” he said with a grin.
The LWJC will meet next at 1 p.m. Feb. 5, in Building A of the Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave. in Geneva.