UW Today

March 7, 2012

UW and Seattle City Hall to host Unemployed Nation Hearings

A partnership of Seattle city government, local labor and University of Washington departments and schools is seeking people willing to share their experience of long-term joblessness.

More than 450 people gather for roll call at Laborers Local 440, only two jobs available.

More than 450 people gather for roll call at Laborers Local 440, only two jobs available.Kathy Cummings

The partnership is sponsoring Unemployed Nation Hearings, which will  be held March 30 and 31 at the UW and Seattle City Hall. The hearings will highlight what it means for 22 million Americans to be either jobless, underemployed in part-time jobs or discouraged and no longer looking – numbers not seen since the Great Depression. Testimony will be supplemented with expertise from economists, historians and legal and political scholars.

“We read statistics about the unemployed but dont see faces or hear voices. Its time to end the silence,” said James Gregory, a UW history professor whos also spokesman for Unemployed Nation.

UW President Michael Young will introduce the first session, to be held 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, March 30, in the Walker Ames Room in Kane Hall. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn will introduce the second session, to be held 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 31, in the Bertha Knight Landes Room at Seattle City Hall.

A job seeker at Laborers Local 440 in Seattle waits to see whether there's work available.

To volunteer to testify, go to the Unemployed Nation website. Alternatively, call Andrew Hedden, program coordinator at the  Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies,  at 206-543-7946.

Organizers want to hear from people willing to tell their stories, particularly young adults entering the job market. Personal statements may also be uploaded to YouTube via the Unemployed Nation site. The site already includes testimony such as that from a middle-aged man who talks about survival. Hes been unemployed long enough that he cant buy tennis shoes for his kids, and has trouble feeding his family.

“Its a struggle just to keep your family together, because when theres no money, theres no family,” he says. “Love goes out the window when you cant put food on your familys table.”

The coalition reflects the seriousness of local and national unemployment. “This partnership represents an opportunity for a wide range of organizations, across campus and in the community, to come together to address a pressing social issue,” said Robert Plotnick, associate dean of academic affairs at the Evans School of Public Affairs.

Along with the Evans School, UW sponsors include the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies; the School of Law; the School of Social Work; the West Coast Poverty Center; and the Law, Societies and Justice Program. The Seattle Mayors Office and the Seattle City Council are also sponsors, as is the M.L. King County Labor Council.

Gregory summarized the hearings: “We are going to do what Congress should have done long ago. We are going to listen to that unemployed nation.”