Yesterday, a coalition of religious groups along with three U.S. Senators announced a grassroots push to help find jobs for the unemployed, in the absence of stronger action from Washington. The Faith Advocates for Jobs Campaign will organize 1,000 congregation-based unemployed worker support committees in 2011, in order to help the unemployed both find jobs but also deal with the sometimes crushing emotional and spiritual side-effects of long-term unemployment.
“As people of faith, we call for an economy that provides a job for everyone who wants and needs one,” the group’s mission statement reads. “We affirm that all jobs should be good jobs, paying living wages and benefits, allowing workers dignity and a voice at the workplace, ensuring workers’ health and safety, and guaranteeing their right to organize unions.”
In addition to helping shepherd people through the difficulties of unemployment, the group — along with Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — also aims to organize political action around more job-friendly policies by bringing the voices of those they’re helping to Washington, In These Times reports:
“Most Members [of Congress] don’t know any unemployed people,” said Senator Brown of Ohio. But, he remarked, unemployed workers are in congregations where they receive support–even food and shelter when necessary.
Senator Casey of Pennsylvania told of unemployed workers coming to Washington to give personal testimony about their experience of living on Unemployment Insurance (UI). “They should not walk alone,” he said. “The world would be a different place if one million unemployed workers said, ‘I need help in my fight for dignity, in my fight for work,’” Senator Sanders of Vermont remarked.
It’s not the first time religious groups have addressed the increasing needs of the unemployed. In These Times also notes that a Christian megachurch in Dallas began helping its congregants find work. “It is not just a support group to offer encouragement — though that is a vital aspect of it,” said the Rev. Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. “But it is helping people be pro-active instead of reactive.”
There are 25 million people searching for full-time work, and the probability that they find work steadily decreases the longer they are unemployed. And, of course, unemployment benefits just expired due to Republican obstruction in Congress — creating a huge void that these groups are trying to fill in spite of government inaction.