Friday, September 03, 2004

"The Unemployment Line"

Here is an eyewitness account of "The Unemployment Line," a political
protest, which took place during the Republican National Convention, highlighting the failure of the Bush administration to stem job loss and promote job creation.

by Janet Falk

In the Sunday, August 29 edition of The New York Times, there was an
article listing announced activities to protest the policies of the Bush
administration and the platform of the Republican National Convention,
with maps of expected routes. I hadn't planned on attending any of these
events, but when I saw one called "The Unemployment Line," I had found my

After all, I have lost my job three times since March 2001, each time
due to company downsizings, loss of business and budget pressures. I have
been unemployed for a total of 16 months during this period, which
represents 40% of the Bush era to date.

In my college days, I would have picked up a flyer that told me where
to join a protest. On Tuesday, I searched the Internet and found the Web
site for United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella group organizing many
protests, where I located the details of The Unemployment Line.

The route extended along Broadway from the Wall Street area towards
Madison Square Garden and 5,000 participants were expected. I e-mailed the
contact and registered to stand on Broadway, between Houston Street and West
4th Street, near my home.

Later that day, I received an e-mail confirming my registration. The
night before the protest, I received a second e-mail, telling me to go to
Broadway between West 3 and West 4, at 7:51 a.m., where I would meet a monitor
in a red hat who would give me my "pink slip." From 8:13 to 8:31 a.m., I
would hold up my pink slip and silently protest the disappearance of millions
of jobs.

Needless to say, I was impressed with the organization of the event,
and it had yet to start.

I headed up Broadway at 7:53, and soon saw others carrying a pink flyer
between Bleecker Street and West 3rd. They directed me to continue to
my assigned area, where, happily, I met some people from the neighborhood.
We chatted and held our pink legal-sized flyers. Now we were standing,
roughly arms length apart. I introduced myself to the fellow next to me, who is
the Vice President of a union at NYU. A neighbor passed by, on her way to
the gym, and I persuaded her to join the group.

We stood along a blue-chalked line, were told to face north and given
the signal to hold up our pink flyers. The monitor had a walkie-talkie that
crackled to life and she confirmed that her "group" was in synch with
the protest; I heard the voice seeking confirmation from other monitors up
the line.

As we stood there, cars drove by, some honking in support. One taxi
driver had his left hand out the window making the peace sign as he honed his
horn. Some trucks and MTA buses had the pink slip taped to the side of their
vehicles, by whose hand I do not know.

Some people stared as they walked past, others clapped, one or two
joined the line spontaneously.

A few people drove south on Broadway, filming the scene with video
cameras, crouching in the flatbeds of trucks; one woman sat in a pedicab and
filmed the line. This made me nervous and I felt vulnerable to I don't know

A man walking his dog taunted the group: "There's plenty of work for
you in Iraq." "Fine," I replied, "I'm going there with you." He ignored me,
naturally, and repeated his observation a few times to the others
behind me.

We were given a warning of five more minutes, then two minutes, then
one minute. It ended. Spontaneously, we all clapped for a job well done.

I said goodbye to my neighbors and, one block south, spotted a news
crew from CNN. As a PR professional, I talk to reporters all the time, but I
usually put my boss in from of the camera. It's a bit tougher when it
is yourself up there.

I sidled up to the reporter and said, when I got her attention, "I want
to raise an issue not being talked about: workers over 45 are losing their

I gave her my name and told her, off camera, that I lost my job three
times since March 2001. On-camera I said "Many highly educated, highly
skilled, productive and energetic workers are losing their jobs because they are
over 45 and are high paid. They are being replaced by younger workers, who
are paid less. That makes it harder for workers over 45 to get a new job.
This is not the manufacturing economy, this is the service economy."

I'm pleased to have participated in this very creative event. There
were representatives of different ethnic and age groups, from what I later
saw of the television coverage, which was shot in Lower Manhattan and near
Madison Square Garden.

This election is far more complex than who did or not serve in this or
that branch of the military. It is about ensuring the full participation of
all segments of our society in the original American dream: life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness.

No one can feel their life is secure if they haven't got a job that
pays them adequately so that they have a roof over their head, food on the
table, and a plan for the day when they will no longer be working.

Vote on November 2, because your life depends on it.

Vote on November 2, because every vote counts.