Unemployed tell their stories - online

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This is now being called the Great Recession. Those who lived through the Great Depression say they just called it hard times. We are slightly better off than those people because they did not have unemployment insurance, food stamps, or other social programs we have today. They had nothing at all. Many Republicans would have us go back to those "good old days."

I created a Facebook support group when I became unemployed. It is called the Unemployed Workers' Support Network

It is a place where organizations/employers that have positions to fill can post jobs and where unemployed persons can offer moral support to one another, share ideas, and network for friendship and help in re-joining the ranks of the employed.

Here are some of their stories. Some people's names have been changed to protect their privacy. They range from people fresh out of college, those who were in the prime of their careers and older people.

Joe, 50, served, in the U.S. Navy, onboard the USS La Salle (AGF-3) in the Persian Gulf. He also attended Muir Technical College (now defunct) in San Diego, Calif., to learn computer programming. Joe, until recently, had been working as an Information technology professional for many years. Then this recession hit and his employer decided to cut costs and hired a third-party company to do technical support, where the pay scale is much less. All technical support and customer service employees were laid off. Joe started working at temporary jobs but even those jobs have become fewer and fewer.

On June 11, 2010, Joe was evicted. He has been sleeping on the front porch of a church. He goes to the local library every day where he hunts for work. Joe writes, "My biggest problem is being able to be presentable for an interview, then having a place to stay while I get enough money to afford my own place again." He asks, "I'm still unemployed. Does anyone have a job for me?"

Richard confides that when he called his mother and shared some of his problems with her, her response was that she was on Social Security and a fixed income and could not help him. He was taken aback because he neither asked for nor expected any help from her. He had just hoped for a sympathetic ear.

Mary, whose position was downsized last year, believes her age was a huge factor. She says, "Older workers (over 50) are becoming the most frequent new members of the unemployed and it is almost impossible to prove that it is age discrimination." 

Dave recently lost his job in what seemed like a recession-proof position. He posts a Facebook message: "I need a job now."  He advertises that he can cook, drive, tend bar, work security, answer phones, and does customer service management. He says he is willing to do anything and asks for help. He says he is broke; he has a negative balance in his checking account. His next step is to start selling his possessions.

Steve's unemployment insurance was delayed for eight weeks. His claim had gotten lost in the system. Finally, after he called repeatedly, an unemployment insurance representative caught the mistake and moved his claim forward. For two months he had no idea what was going to happen, he was almost evicted and was frightened.   Sadly, unemployment offices around the country have been so inundated with claimants that they are overwhelmed. They hire new people who are quickly trained and expected to know the job fully. This, said one unemployment office worker, is part of the problem. The claims workers do care and want to help but with rules changing frequently, it is difficult to keep up.

Donald has worked hard for his college degree and still cannot find work. He writes that he has been placing countless applications and résumés daily with no results.

Sonya writes, "It is rough out there and we have to stick together through this." She has been submitting applications everywhere. She is a trained information technology professional who has been applying for even the most menial positions. She writes, "In the beginning of July, CNN Money posted an article that said 'If you are not working, we won't hire you.'"

Sonya says she is "ready to stand at the street corner with a sign saying 'I need a job.'"  When she is called in for an interview, she researches the organization, wanting to show the person conducting the interview that she is sincerely interested. Still no job offer! She has spoken with recruiters and employment agencies who do not work very hard to place people who have been unemployed for a year or more. Moreover employers are reluctant to hire people with education and experience because they think as soon as the recession is over, these people will quit.

Sonya advocates a campaign by people who have exhausted 99 weeks of unemployment insurance and seek the addition of a Tier V, which would allow them to continue to receive benefits. They are called the 99ers. Legislation for this has yet to be brought up for a vote in Congress. No one seems to be interested in helping people who have exhausted their 99 weeks, they say.  Sonya says she is "doing everything that she can to draw attention to our plight."

The Rochester Unemployment-Examiner, a Facebook/online newspaper, writes, "Hopefully someone with some compassion steps forward and courageously offers 99er legislation. If Congress can save corporations from certain death, they should be able to help American citizens avoid a financial death."

Photo: Unemployed Workers' Support Network Facebook page.