AFL-CIO kicks off bus tour for jobless

The labor union’s cross-country tour tackles unemployment issues.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:01 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The “Show Us the Jobs” cross-country bus tour begins today with a rally to highlight the job crisis in America. The tour is sponsored by the AFL-CIO and Working America, an affiliate.

Among the concerns to be addressed by the AFL-CIO are health care for the unemployed, greater personal hardship as a result of poverty and the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries.

One unemployed person from each state and the District of Columbia will ride in a bus from St. Louis to Washington, D.C., during the next week, making stops in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia to speak about the consequences and hardships of unemployment.

Laura Johannesmeyer will represent Missouri. The Kansas City resident worked as a health-care consultant but was laid off five years ago. She saw the need for a support group for the unemployed and started a job club that meets weekly and boasts 1,000 members. Many members are professionals, such as lawyers, pilots, engineers and purchasers.

Although Johannesmeyer is not a member of the AFL-CIO, she was selected to represent Missouri after she spoke with them about her job club. She said she thinks the current political environment is eroding the middle class. She is concerned with outsourcing of jobs and hopes that by taking the bus tour she can help increase awareness of the job situation and effect economic policy that would stop the loss of good jobs.

“I’ve seen so much tragedy and loss. I’ve got to step up and help,” Johannesmeyer said. “The economy may be getting richer, but the individuals are suffering.”

Two thousand people are expected to attend today’s rally in St. Louis, which begins at 5 p.m. at the Morton D. May Amphitheatre. Each of the 51 bus riders will share their testimonies before leaving for Iowa.

“I think people realize there is a job crisis and we are on the wrong track in this country as far as jobs,” said Lane Windham, a representative of AFL-CIO. “Eight million are unemployed, and 2 million have given up looking.”

The bus will stop in Manitowoc, Wis., a city that has seen a 7 percent increase in unemployment during the past three years. In Youngstown, Ohio, the group will visit a three-county region where 11,000 homes have been sold in foreclosure sales during the past five years.

“We wanted to make sure that opinion leaders and the public understood that ‘jobless recovery’ is nonsensical,” Windham said. “You can’t have recovery without jobs.”

One of the goals of the tour is to call for action and bring attention to failing economic policy.

“Under the Bush administration, we have lost more than 2 million jobs … more jobs than any president since Hoover,” Windham said. “But we’re not saying this is a Kerry tour.”

This is the first time the AFL-CIO has sponsored a bus tour to speak out on unemployment. Windham said the purpose is to tell the story of the 51 people who have been forced into no-benefit jobs or have had to train their own replacements.

“We are trying to show the face of America,” Windham said.

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