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.


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  • Wow! I feel blessed at this moment despite the fact that I used to make 45K in the non-profit sector and now make 21K as an at home Customer Service Rep for a company I cannot name. Lest you think I have not been where you stand let me relate the following history. 3 years ago I lost both my parents in a car accident, my 19 month old grandson was nearly killed as well. We spent weeks and weeks in three different hospitals trying to pull him back together. He is fine now thank god and was the only thing that kept me sane after the loss of my parents. My parents and I at the time jointly owned a duplex where we'd planned to retire gracefully and grow old. Their deaths occurred right at the beginning of the recession just before the big wall street firms started to drop like flies due to the mortgage crisis. Our home was tied up in probate for 15 months (the longest I could push it). 8 months after they were killed due to the recession I lost my job of 16 years in the non-profit sector. I searched for months and months never getting a call using every resource I had to try to save my home. My father had 8k in outstanding medical debt, he had been hospitalized 5 times in that last year. I couldn't even float a loan for the 8K to satisfy probate because I no longer had a job. In the end I lost my home too. I spent the last three winter months living in it without any heat with my daughter and grandson. It was miserable. Food, everything was in short supply. Finally in January with with 460.00 in my hand and two weeks before my daughters last check I spent the whole night crying my eyes out and let the mortgage go. Probate was going to force the sale and or the mortgage company was going to take the house so I gave up and gave it back to the bank. Unbeknownst to me at the time a 90K lien had been placed on the house by my daughters insurance company to help "offset" their costs on the 140,000.00 tab my grandsons medical bills had come to...not counting the 25,000.00 we were already buried under as our part of the debt. Even if I'd raised 8K they would have taken my home anyway. At the time due to the mortgage meltdown my home had lost 2/3rds of its value in the open market. So I couldn't even sell to try to salvage some of the equity. Thankfully, just as we became homeless my daughters income tax came in and we were able to find an apartment. Finally I got a call back, at about the time I thought we would be homeless again because her checks wouldn't cover everything and landed a 10.00 an hour job as a customer service rep. The unimaginable grief I dealt with after the loss of my two best friends, my grandsons recovery, the loss of my very satisfying 16 year career and the home we had owned for 28 years almost killed me. Three years later with my health absolutely wrecked (I weigh 78 pounds at 5'5") still struggling with money due to Nashville's flood (my daughter lost her place of employment as a result of it and now struggles to get hours at one of the other restaurants in the chain that is trying to keep the displaced employees employed) and nearly two months of lost work because I became so sick we sit here in this apartment absolutely thankful that we have it. I don't know if I will be able to afford any gifts for my Grandson this year. I did buy a 20$ tree. Fortunately he doesn't know when xmas is. If I can keep that tree alive for a couple more paychecks (lol) I can fake him out when we are more level after we've absorbed and recovered from work losses due to my health.

    I guess my point here is despite all this and everything I've lost or had to sell off to exist I'm still here fighting everyday and trying to find the humor in my condition. There were dark times when I almost checked out completely. I just didn't think I could go on. Some were so dark that like birthing pains my mind has actually blocked them out. No matter how dark it gets as we all struggle to survive, our conditions do change. We learn to adapt and keep moving forward. I am 50 years old and I know I will never see 45K which was comfortable for me again in this new "adjustment" labor is undergoing. I will only see 45K again if I take those skills and build something for myself that is not controlled by some corporate medium. I believe I can do that because I know how talented I am in the many things I do. It will just take time and perseverance.

    There are so many talented people I'm reading about many of them older like me. I wonder what we could create if we pooled all those skills together. Perhaps the outgrowth could be kinder companies that care less about the bottom line and more about the people who help them make that profit. A company is only as good as the people who build and, yes even love it.

    People keep telling everyone to network and wait for crumbs from some corporate table to drift down. Is that really what we should be waiting for and expending all our energy pursuing? I think localized groups should be developed whose intent is not to seek crumbs but rather to gather the talent to build something new and certainly something kinder. It may already be happening but if it isn't it should be.

    I wish all of you the best. I know where you're at and I grieve for you. You CAN survive it though and I believe still build something better for yourselves. You just have to believe in the only thing that matters and thats you.

    Posted by Stephanie Varnado, 12/12/2010 8:57pm (5 years ago)

  • Thank you for your article about unemplyment and older persons. Check out this original song on You Tube about older people during hard times.


    Jim Burns

    Posted by Jim, 11/26/2010 11:40pm (5 years ago)

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