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Interfaith Worker Justice Launches Jobs Campaign

December 2, 2010

Interfaith Worker Justice, a network of people whose faith traditions call on them to support workers’ rights, held a forum today to announce the launch of their Faith Advocates for Jobs Campaign.  IWJ’s executive director, Kim Bobo, kicked off the event, speaking of the need to support workers in this tough economy.  The highlights of the event were speeches by Senators Sherrod Brown, Robert Casey and Bernie Sanders.

While expressing his surprise that the public has not been more vocal on pushing job creation, Sen. Brown said that there is no better place for the beginnings of a movement than the faith community.   Indeed, people of faith played a critical role in the progressive movement over the past 100 years.  Sen. Brown  compared the 2010 midterm elections to those of 1966.  A backlash against progressive legislation led Democrats to lose seats in both elections, but the benefits of those legislative accomplishments were not undone.  Sen. Brown promised to continue pushing for an extension of unemployment benefits.

Sen. Casey told the audience that he believes one reason lawmakers have not yet extended unemployment benefits is that they do not hear enough personal stories from their constituents who are out of work or underemployed.  He described a conversation he had with a group of unemployed Pennsylvanians yesterday, saying that while he always has economic statistics in his mind, it is interactions with the people behind those numbers that underscore the urgency of the situation.  Like Sen. Brown, he vowed to continue fighting to extend unemployment benefits to Americans.

During his remarks, Sen. Sanders placed the current jobs crisis in the context of larger changes in the economy.  30 years ago, a single-earner family had more disposable income than the average two-income family does today. Indeed, median family income dropped by approximately $2,200 under the Bush years.  Nonetheless, not everyone is hurting.  The top one percent take home almost a quarter of income, a fact that underscores the growing income inequality that is the true source of frustration that most Americans are feeling.  Sen. Sanders suggested that a focus on unfair trade policies and the nation’s crumbling infrastructure would lead to much job creation and could help stem the rising tide of inequality and stubbornly high unemployment.

Following these addresses, Paul Sherry, the Director of Public Policy at IWJ’s DC office, laid out the goals of the Jobs Campaign: to organize at least 1,100 congregation-based support groups for the unemployed in 2011; to advocate for public policies that support job creation, such as a second economic stimulus bill; and to develop an educational program on job creation that local congregations can use.  The Campaign’s steering committee will meet in February to flesh out steps to achieve these goals.

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