Mesa resident Donna Bradley lost her job as a contract programmer earning $43 an hour, and just took a job at Kohls earning $7 an hour.
Ruth Slater said she found herself homeless after losing her apartment manager job to an immigrant worker. After trying to find comparable work, she now works at Wal-Mart, but her salary isn't enough to make ends meet, so she is staying with her stepson in Scottsdale.
“When we got evicted, we ate potatoes for a week,” she said. “We ate potatoes in America. I waited a month with no food, living off of what other people would give me before my appointment (to get food stamps).”
These are just two East Valley residents who participated in a roundtable discussion on the “nation's job crisis,” Thursday at the Iowa Cafe in Mesa. The event also kicked off a national “Show Us the Jobs” bus tour organized by Working America, a new national organization for workers, and the AFL-CIO.
Mesa resident Dawn Teo will represent Arizona on the tour across 50 states and the District of Columbia. Teo founded and runs the Rescue American Jobs Foundation, a nonprofit organization geared toward putting people back to work.
“It's all the same, it's about cheap, exploitable labor,” Teo said. “I want to bring awareness to the fact that the economy is failing the people. When the economy is no longer supporting the people and the people are supporting the economy, it's broken. We need to talk more about it. They retrain for manufacturing and technology, and now what? What's left?”
The purpose of the tour is to get real faces and real people out there telling their stories of how their lives have been adversely affected by unemployment, said Mark McGrath, the AFL-CIO's executive director.
“The middle class is under attack by a do-nothing administration,” he said. “Something needs to be done.”
In Arizona, 37,500 manufacturing jobs and 5,800 information services jobs have been lost since President Bush took office, said Bill McGlashen, executive vice president of Arizona AFL-CIO. Also, 142,218 workers in Arizona were unemployed in January, he said.
“Working families cannot survive on low-wage, dead-end jobs with no benefits or retirement security,” he said.
Bradley was “an American success story” in that she worked her way up from a single mother on welfare to succeeding in the business world before corporate downsizing “knocked” her back down, said Rob Sanchez, a Chandler resident who lost his electrical engineering job at Motorola.
“The message throughout the country is, this administration, the whole government, they really don't care,” Slater said. “This is cheap labor. Corporations are getting rich on this cheap, slave labor, whether you're importing it in from South America, Mexico, wherever. I think this is really the straw that broke the camel's back with the U.S. citizens.”