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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jobs advocates lament frustrated dreams in East Liberty

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 1:54 PM

The Speak Out for Good Jobs Now tour slogan is "rebuild the American Dream." And for two hours Monday night, congressional representatives heard from those whose dream, or that of someone they knew, had been shattered by lack of jobs.

"In every job I've ever worked at, it's been understaffed. It's stressful going to work every day knowing there's an infinite to-do list. But I'm considered one of the lucky ones," said Mike Heller. "Of my friends, only half of us are fortunate to have jobs. The other half are unemployed."

Of the 600 who packed the Kinglsey Center auditorium in East Liberty for the congressional listening tour sponsored by sponsored by ProgressiveCongress.org, many were less fortunate. And they let those who had come to listen -- Jackie Erickson, repping Sen. Bob Casey, and Corey O'Connor, representing Mike Doyle -- know it.

The discussion in Washington, O'Connor said, "shouldn't be on debt limits. It should be on getting good, quality jobs back to Western Pennsylvania."

Among those who spoke:

  • Terry Miale, of Bridgeville: A 30-year employee of Verizon, Miale says that the company dissolved its contract with U.S. Airways after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, dissolving her job. "I work an $8 an hour, part-time job at Macy's. I'm on food stamps, my boyfriend pays the rent," she said. "This is not the American dream I signed up for."
  • Georgeanne Koehler: In 2003, her brother Billy lost his job and health insurance, and access to health care for a heart condition. He was eventually hired as a pizza delivery driver, but unable to find a private health care plan; he was repeatedly denied for pre-existing conditions. On March 7, 2009, Billy died of cardiac arrest in his car on his way home from a shift. He was 57.
  • Benita Johnson, of the North Side: Dropped out of school at the age 14 and worked to support her family. Obtained her bachelor's degree and worked for the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 and 2010. When her work there ended, "I thought 'I have a bachelor's degree and four years of government experience, I'd be OK," she said. "I couldn't find a job." She was eventually offered a job by the federal government -- but it was ultimately cut due to funding issues. She's currently on unemployment. "If my unemployment runs out, I'll have to sell everything I own and move in with my brother," she said. "I thought if my own ancestors could survive slavery, I could survive this. But this is a different kind of slavery."

More than 30 organizations and citizen groups were present, including the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network, One Pittsburgh and Action United.

"We should not be here begging for health care, begging for jobs," said the Rev. Richard Freeman, president of PIIN. "We own this country!"

Pittsburgh was the listening tour's 14th stop, and it continues across the country. Visit here to share your story with the tour.

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