Since returning to Pittsburgh from Baltimore, 54-year-old Kim Brown has taken up residence in Braddock, an area in the region that knows the story of joblessness all too well. Now, Brown too finds herself living out that story as she and her family struggle to find work.
“I’m educated. I put in my work. I got off welfare. I came back to Pittsburgh for an easier life, a better life. I was an administrative assistant for ten years and now I’m out of a job,” said Brown who has worked as an electrician, truck driver, administrative assistant, and even served time in the military. “So you can’t say get an education; I have that. Instead of having corporations making millions, let’s share the wealth.”
|RICK ADAMS (Photos by J.L. Martello)
Brown was just one of the many speakers at the local rally for the “Speakout for Good Jobs Now! Rebuild the American Dream Tour,” held at the Kingsley Association July 18. The congressional listening tour has given the public a chance to speak to their progressive representatives, although these representatives might not be the ones most in need of persuading.
Unfortunately, Representatives Mike Doyle and John Conyers were not there to hear from Brown or the more than 600 constituents because they were called to Washington for a vote. Listening on their behalf were Corey O’Connor from Doyle’s office and Jackie Erickson, serving on behalf of Senator Bob Casey.
The session was facilitated by Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network President Rev. Richard Freeman and Rick Adams, co-convener of the Western Pennsylvania Black Political Assembly.
“It seems to me if we can build a bridge in Iraq, if we can build a bridge in Afghanistan, we can build bridges in America. We matter and we have to demand more jobs,” Rev. Freeman said. “What’s going on? Right now, I think that the question you need to be asking politicians. Why can we give money to corporations when we can’t give healthcare to a mother for her children? What’s going on?”
“This is America. We can’t let anybody divide us for any reason. I don’t care where you live, what you look like, what your religion is, who you’re sleeping with. We’re all in this together,” Adams said. “This is not an event. This is not an end. This is a beginning. You are the key. Call your representatives. Call your senators. Wherever you go, talk to people. Tell them this is the movement. We’re going to get America back.”
For many of the African-American speakers at the rally, the joblessness throughout Pittsburgh can be directly tied to the ever-present crime and violence in their communities.
“I’m from a neighborhood where kids get killed,” said Marcus Reed, a committeeman in the North Side. “I’m in a neighborhood where there are no jobs so the young mothers are chasing the drug dealers so they can put food on the table.”
An overwhelming majority of the speakers at the rally were members of labor unions throughout the city. Among them were the United Steelworkers Union and the Service Employees International Union.
“I’m here today to fight for my rights, as well as the rights of my coworkers and their families,” said Vincent Smith, a union construction worker. “I believe jobs need to be created within our communities. Without good wages, how can they give back to their communities? Without good wages, how can they help their families? I’m not just fighting for my union, I’m fighting for every working family in America.”