Category Archives: us and them

No work, Long lines- Las largas filas de los desempleados

11:18 a.m. Only one man is shoveling the paperwork as the unemployment office line keeps growing. About 30 are ahead of me. Another guy comes over to help out. “New claims,” he hollers. A group hustle up to him. One,  an elderly Chinese man, seems confused. The second guy shakes his head and shoos him away. “We’re overwhelmed and understaffed,” he says. “The extension has us swamped.” The elderly man wanders among the desks and someone finally helps him.

At my turn, the guy behind the counter says I’m in the system but it’s backed up. Too many people. Oh well. No check this week.

Is this what’s happening in places where the numbers of jobless are high? Who are these people in line, waiting to sign up for more benefits? Why couldn’t they find a job before? And why do so many seem not to qualify? How many exactly?

Here’s one story that touches on this, but doesn’t take us there.

Down and out in Southwest Florida: Unemployment rates make a dramatic jump to historic highs

By Daily News staff and Associated Press reports

Originally published 10:27 a.m., August 15, 2008
Updated 10:07 p.m., August 15, 2008

— Out of work?

You’re not alone.

In July, jobless rates spiked again in Southwest Florida.

In Collier County, the unemployment rate jumped to 7.7 percent, up from 6.5 percent a month earlier and 5.3 percent a year ago, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation.

In Lee County, it’s more bleak. The unemployment rate climbed to 8.4 percent last month, up from 7.6 percent in June and 5.1 percent a year ago.

Southwest Florida has been hit particularly hard because so many of its jobs were in construction, which has slowed to a crawl with a housing slump.

The state lost 79,200 construction jobs over the year.

“A lot of the retail stores have cut back hours and cut back on staff. Construction is still winding down more and more. We are definitely having a slowdown,” said Naples investment manager and financial advisor Robert Matheson.

Florida’s unemployment rate hit a 13-year high of 6.1 percent in July, up from 5.5 percent a month earlier and 4.1 percent a year ago. It was higher than the national rate of 5.7 percent.

Hendry County posted the highest unemployment rate in

from the LA Times,0,5368211.story?page=2

La vida sin esperanza por los carwasheros

Some workers are invisible. They serve. They do the jobs we want. And we don’t notice, don’t ask, don’t wonder. In New York and L.A. officials have been wondering about the working conditions of car washers. The A.P. had a story about such. But an earlier story in the L.A. Times went further, though it could have done more to explain who they are – these carwasheros – and why the steelworkers are helping to organize them. It could have been a day in the life of cheapening suds.

Here’s the LA Times piece, and yeah, don’t forget to tip after they dry the car.

Inspectors find dirt on books at area carwashes

Owners frequently violate labor and immigration laws with little risk of penalty, officials say. Many workers are loath to complain, but some have formally accused their bosses of underpaying them.

A team of state inspectors strode into the Blue Wave Car Wash in West Los Angeles, past latte-sipping customers in electric massage chairs and into the gritty carwash tunnel.

¿Cuánto gana usted?” the inspectors asked worker after worker, about 20 of them, most Latino immigrants. “How much do you make?” Each carwashero responded that he earned minimum wage or more – just as the owner of the Blue Wave, one of the region’s busiest carwashes, had told the inspectors.

Looking over payroll records, however, the regulators became suspicious. Employees who said they were full time were listed as working just 10 or 15 hours a week.

Inspector Martha Mendoza ushered Juan Cruz Santiago, a small man with salt-and-pepper hair, away from the others. During gentle questioning under a ficus tree, he admitted that most days, he and his 66-year-old father worked for tips only. So did nearly half the other employees, he said. It had been that way for at least six years.

The real price of your flowers El precio autentico de sus flores

11 a.m.  Going city to city across the U.S., Dora Acero, 35, flower worker in a small village near Bogota, Colombia for the last 17 years, earning $215 a month for a 48-hour week, the minimum pay, tells of workers, nearly of them women and most of them young, who complain about not having enough water to drink in the flower houses, about how hard it is to work when you are pregnant, about when you have to work in the flower houses freshly cleansed with pesticides, about not being allowed to go to the bathroom if your production is low, about how the company doesn’t talk to the independent union that she is an official with and about how she wishes her message would make a difference.  Think mother’s day.