Where Are the Jobs in the Heartland?

When I heard the knock on my door last month, I thought it was a package delivery. What I got instead was a personal invitation to join Working America, a new community affiliate of the AFL-CIO. The canvassers told me that the labor movement is moving out beyond its members to team up with community to fight for issues facing all of us, like stemming the flood of disappearing good jobs and electing new leadership to focus on working people's issues.

The canvassers also told me that in my home state of Ohio over 383,000 jobs have been lost since President Bush took office. When Bush says the jobs crisis is over and we are ready for sunny days ahead, he talks about people I don't know. New jobs created in Ohio pay twenty-six percent less than the ones that have disappeared. I have never been a union member, but Working America addresses many of the issues I care about, like bringing affordable health care to all of us and raising the minimum wage. They reach out to me via e-mail with activism messages and actions. We can vote online about the themes we want to work on this year. Jobs, joblessness, and trade are leading now.

This presidential election is key to me, because with Mr. Bush, it is personal. My husband has worked for AT&T since 1990. Due to a recent Bush Administration-backed decision by the FCC, AT&T can no longer compete with the local Baby Bells in residential local and long-distance markets, so AT&T is now pulling out in seven states, which means a 60 percent job cut. My husband may not have a job by the end of this year, as his division is directly effected.

I'm not ready to limit myself to the world of fast food yet, but I am getting discouraged in my job search. I have been working in elementary education on a part-time basis because the schedule meets the needs of my two children, ages eight and 11. But my increasing local taxes and utility costs, combined with skyrocketing prescription costs for my asthmatic daughter, will no longer allow me to keep on with an $8.00 an hour job (and that's considered good basic pay in my area).

The cost of health insurance is crippling business and workers. It's time to acknowledge that managed care has failed. All the money goes to the insurers and pharmaceutical companies now instead of the doctors. It's time to take the third party out of medical care.

Let's end tax incentives for shipping jobs abroad. Bush backed tax breaks for corporations that moved jobs offshore in his 2004 and 2005 budgets. Let's put ON some taxes for shipping in cheap goods from overseas. The trade imbalance is getting worse all the time and is never seriously addressed – that's hurting us every day.

Let's make it easier and affordable for workers to get training and re-education. I am a 50-year old who has been on the mommy track for eight years and would welcome some affordable training, especially training that I could get and then pay back over time after I get a job in the designated field.

I will do whatever I can to bring change to the White House in 2004. Joining Working America and using my computer as an advocacy tool is one step I am taking to bring hope for our future.

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