(Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Frustrated by how little attention the nation’s soaring unemployment rate has received from both House leadership and the White House, the Congressional Black Caucus plans to launch a “For the People Jobs Tour” initiative in July that will bring employers ready to fill jobs to some of the cities where African-American unemployment is highest. In May, their jobless rate was 16.2 percent, an increase from 16.1 percent in April, and there is little optimism that the June jobs report will bring better news.
“The CBC has been pushing jobs since the hour after we were sworn in this past January and we have repeatedly sought the help and support of various groups. We’ve gone to the Democratic House leadership, the White House and Republican leadership, trying to create the legislative opportunity to create jobs,” said CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri). “It has occurred to us that there is not a serious effort being put forth to create jobs, at least not at the level that we believe there should be. So we’ve decided that we are going to put forth the effort to not only create some jobs but also to make sure that the country understands that one group is out there trying to jobs for a country where the jobless rate is soaring.”
The caucus is still finalizing the details, but so far the list of cities includes Detroit, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Miami. Chicago also is being considered. According to Cleaver, some of the nation’s largest employers have agreed to participate in each job fair. More important, he says, they will not be there to promote their companies but to offer actual jobs at all levels, from fast-food worker to corporate executive. Some of the companies will participate in all of the fairs.
“This isn’t going to be one of those fairs where the companies come to talk about how great they are and then people leave angry and frustrated. People will be able to leave with jobs,” Cleaver said. “Not everybody, because we think we’re going to have thousands turning up, but we will go in with jobs. And we have some of the largest corporations in the country.”
Each fair will include a town hall led by a member of congress, during which people can share their experience, frustrations and concerns about their employment situations. In addition, CBC members and staffers will lead workshops to help them refine their job searches, such as résumé writing, networking, salary negotiation, interview preparation and other skills. Not everyone will leave the fair with a job in hand, but many will be better prepared as they continue their search.
CBC members are very excited about the jobs tour, but regret that they’ll only be able to do it once because they don’t have the resources to launch multiple tours. In fact, they are so committed to doing whatever they can to reduce the Black unemployment rate that they’re financing the tour themselves.
“I’m not sure this is the role of members of congress in the first place, but in the absence of any workable and meaningful effort to create the jobs, we’re going to do it,” Cleaver said.