"Those People"

Liss's posts below reminded me of something I've been meaning to share--this past Saturday I was at an event hosted by the Interfaith Committee on Homelessness. The event's point was to bring various business leaders together with the community and various community organizations to open a dialog about how "business" and "community" can work together on the issue of jobs, housing, and homelessness. It was a very interesting event and I learned a great deal, both positive and negative regarding the business community and its involvement with regards to working in the community.

However, there were two statements made--and stuck to and repeated (and that another CEO nodded along in agreement to)--by two members of the business community that really stood out. During the Q&A session, a gentlemen who runs a shelter organization trying to connect homeless men to jobs opportunities asked the panel of business leaders about issues surrounding the challenges of applying for work and interviewing. The gentlemen asked the panel what could they (the panel) do to make this process easier? Or what advice could they offer to potential applicants, especially in this economy? This, btw, was a very big theme among the Q&A: jobs. Many organization speakers stressed that the people they represent do, in fact, desire employment.

The first answer came from Jonathan Schlueter. Schlueter is the Exec Director of the Westside Business Alliance. What he said was that they (business) can only help so many people (in regards to jobs) and there are some people they just can't help: "the people who simply don't want to work." One example of people who "don't want to work" are those who "don't want to show up on time". Those people.

Now, I don't know about the other people there (I'm pretty sure I do) but I didn't hear anyone talking about "those people". That was his opening statement in his answer--to go first for the stereotype of "those people who just don't want to work".

It was the next comment that was very tell-tale. Bethany Bigelow is Director of Dining Operations for Aramark at Pacific University (and Aramark donates surplus food to shelters). Anyway, she was nodding along with what Schlueter said and when he was finished, she spoke up and said she wanted to build on it. She said that she believes that a major part of "the problem" (with people not getting work) is that too many people are not willing to take jobs they think are beneath them. She said (direct quote here) "People say I'm a CPA! Not a dishwasher!" and refuse job opportunities. Two other panelists nodded along with her statement (one, the CEO of Providence Health and Services actually looked appalled). I was left wondering: so just how do applicants compete, not just with each other, but with entrenched stereotypes by those doing the hiring?

While this one panel is not Industry As A Whole (even if one of the people represents a whole lot of Business), it hardly seems atypical. Recall the recent news of companies not wanting to hire those who are unemployed? Bob Herbert recently wrote:
Twenty-five million Americans were unable to find full-time work in May. Nearly 14 million were officially classified as jobless. Millions more are outside the labor force and not being counted at all. We are surrounded by the evidence of a searing national tragedy. The crippling affliction of joblessness has become a way of life for millions.

The average length of unemployment is a devastating 40 weeks, the longest since 1948, which was the first year such records were kept. Unemployed workers 55 and older are gripped with the very real fear that they may never work again.
Yet, as Liss posted, the president is thinking about "seeking a temporary cut in the payroll taxes businesses pay on wages" and NOT thinking about the government doing anything to help actual workers.

It's not the business industry--the one who speaks of those people--that's going to fix anything, Mr. President and Congresspeople. But, sure, just keep giving them tax breaks. THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE.

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