Over to the USA now, where the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) has launched a website for America`s unemployed. Actually known as Union of Unemployed ( see link below) , it has attracted the nicknames U Cubed and, oddly,
Ur Union of Unemployed.
Facilities offered on the site include social networking, job listings and legislative campaigning.
After registering and logging on, users can connect with other users according to their zip code (if you`re in the UK, it`s like a postcode) , and they are organised into a `cube` of six people. These are organised into groups of nine cubes, known as `neighborhoods` - I decided to use the American spelling - , and then the neighborhoods are formed into `blocks`. The idea is to form networks of `job activists` to support each other and to campaign to get people back to work.
It may sound a bit strange, but speaking personally, I had a couple of spells of unemployment as a youngster ("being a youngster" was quite some time ago !) and I have to say, I pretty much hated everything about it. I would have jumped at something like this, I promise you.
In the interests of research, I had a quick glance at the site. There are various links to current affairs sites, giving details of news items relevant to the unemployed. I was interested to read that the Senate had passed a bill allowing the government to offer tax incentives to employers giving jobs to the unemployed and putting an infusion of cash into road-building schemes. The bill was passed by a fairly respectable majority, with 11 Republicans siding with the Democrats to support the bill.
On the campaigning side, there was encouragement for users to lobby to support The Local Jobs for America Act , The `Jobs for Main Street` Bill and other proposed measures, and an interesting campaign called a WARN notice campaign (a WARN Notice is one required by law in the US when a company plans to close a plant permanently, to give employees fair warning that such measures are being considered. Allegedly, companies often fail to comply with their obligations in this respect). The idea of this campaign is for the unemployed to warn politicians that "I am paying close attention to how you vote, to how you lead us out of this economic turmoil".
I was glad to see that fairly conventional lobbying methods, such as e-mail/letter-writing campaigns, were in use, rather than a more confrontational approach, as nothing will kill it stone dead quicker than any suggestion that participation might hurt user`s chances of finding work.
This is the third article about new initiatives among US trade unions that I`ve posted, and I have to say I think they`re setting a high standard for fresh thinking and flexible responses to a changing world. It may well be that any of us might disagree with some details ("road building" is hardly the most green option), but overall, I`m pretty impressed. Let`s hope unions outside the US are taking notes.
Pepe Lozano - Machinists Union Creates Website to Organize Nation`s Unemployed, People`s World, 23 Febrary 2010
Union of Unemployed website - www.unionofunemployed.com
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers - www.goiam.org
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