A hometown evangelist for 4 million forgotten Americans urged New Haven policymakers not to leave the “99ers” out of upcoming plans to link local people to jobs.
The evangelist was Joe Carbone (pictured above). When most of New Haven last saw him on a regular basis, he was the number-two man at City Hall, top aide to Mayor Biagio DiLieto through the 1980s.
Now Carbone has a new mission: connecting the long-term unemployed to jobs. He brought that mission—and a pitch—to town Wednesday afternoon to try to influence the way New Haven goes about trying to help people still recovering from the recession.
Carbone calls them the hidden “emerging class” of people whom businesses and politicians from both major parties are “leaving behind” in today’s tepid economy recovery. Factory workers, teachers, office workers, financial planners, middle managers, many over 50 years old, downsized out of career jobs, they have run through their 99 weeks of unemployment insurance or will soon. Many have given up trying to find work. As of March New Haven had 3,200 99ers, according to Carbone. nationally, 30,000 people a week are reaching that point. Over four million will have by the November elections.
Carbone has been speaking up for the 99ers and helping them find work as head of a not-for-profit Fairfield County agency called WorkPlace. A February 60 Minutes episode on the problem made him a star. (Click on the play arrow to watch it.) Thanks to the program Carbone is suddenly bringing a 99ers program he developed there to 33 communities around the country.
Where is the outrage? Carbone has been asking. “We should be angry!”
He has preached 99er fire and brimstone in 26 states and three countries, he said. But until Wednesday afternoon, he hadn’t done so in New Haven, the hometown where he still lives.
He brought his pitch to 21 movers and shakers over slices of Abate’s pizza the 10th floor Chamber of Commerce boardroom at 900 Chapel St. The occasion: the latest meeting of the Jobs Pipeline Working Group, a team of politicians and business leaders putting together a plan to link unemployed and underemployed local people to local jobs. It’s one of the top civic crusades du jour in New Haven. Much of the public discussion has focused on young people entering the workforce or adults needing basic skills or job-readiness training.
In fact, the largest sub-group of people coming to “one-stop” job centers like his (and like one envisioned for New Haven as part of the “pipeline” talk) are 99ers, said Carbone, who’s 62.
They have worked decades in jobs. They have skills. They know how to work.
But after they’ve been out of work for six months or so, Carbone said, they routinely have their resumes tossed from the stack of thousands sent to employers every time a job opens. They get discouraged. They go through life savings. They end up at food pantries.
And the country has forgotten them, the collateral damage of “structural” change.
Instead of helping them, politicians are opting not to extend unemployment benefits. And they “cheer” and “take credit” for figures showing unemployment starting to drop—a “drop” that comes about in part not because of new jobs, but because people no longer count as “unemployed” if they’ve stopped seeking work. Some people whose “values” would normally draw them to support the downtrodden, he said before his talk, have written off the 99ers as the unfortunate sacrificial lambs of a new economic order.
“It’s bone-chilling,” Carbone subsequently told the pipeline group.
After all previous recessions since World War II, people eventually got their jobs back, Carbone said. It took four years for the U.S. to regain the jobs lost in the 2000 recession, for instance. Four years after the start of the most recent recession, most of the jobs haven’t come back—and many won’t, because of how business has changed. “Growth” now means that when companies start making more money, they look for ways other than hiring human beings to meet increased demand. Instead they turn to technology (which is cheaper) or for ways to “do more with less.”
The result has been “the emergence of a new class,” whom Carbone called the “victims of structural economic change.”
“Several million people walked the plank,” he said.
The program Carbone has developed in Fairfield County, called Platform to Employment, combines technical skills retraining with motivational “hope” guidance. Instructors talk about the emotional fallout of unemployment on families, the loss of confidence suffered by former breadwinners, the kind of help that’s available in the community.
Carbone has pushed employers to take on 99ers. He convinces them to open the door to his 99ers at least through eight-week internships. And, the onetime political campaign organizer, said before Wednesday’s talk, he has been urging 99ers to band together and approach their elected officials. To seek extensions of unemployment benefits—and to demand that their cause not be forgotten.
Previous “jobs pipeline” coverage:
• “Pipeline” Pitch Gets Personal
• $5M Jumpstarts New Jobs Effort
• Jobs “Pipeline” Gives Patrick Ndagijimana A Shot
• Should Developers Pay A “Pipeline” Fee?
• Push For Jobs “Pipeline” Gets Underway
• A Pipeline In 90 Days
• “Grassroots Agenda” Starts With Jobs