By R. Thomas Buffenbarger
More than 31 million Americans have been idled to some degree by this Grave Recession. That number is shockingly high. But when you’re out of work, it’s easy to feel alone. And it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that millions of Americans share the strains of unemployment: the sleepless nights worrying about the bills, the dreary days surfing job listings and countless weekends shopping for cheap eats.
Realizing that you’re not alone, though, is the first step in getting back to work. There is strength in numbers. And the more jobless Americans work together, the quicker they can end this devastating downturn.
This is the idea behind Ur Union of Unemployed, or UCubed. Spearheaded by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, this organization seeks to unify the unemployed in a unique and useful way.
UCubed connects the unemployed in a particular zip code into cubes of six people. Those cubes are then organized into neighborhoods of nine cubes, and then assembled into blocks. In this way, unemployed individuals in a specific area — or UCubed “activists” — can find each other and harness their power in ways that local politicians and merchants can’t ignore.
At the same time, UCubed offers the unemployed a way to use their skills and talents to help others through these hard times even as they help themselves. How?
First, each UCubed activist has a unique set of skills, talents and experiences that can be shared. Just like good old fashioned barn raisings, activists can help each other polish resumes, practice interview techniques, apply for programs meant to help the jobless and explore possible job openings. Working together, they can build a network of mutual support.
Second, UCubed activists can pressure the federal and state governments to respond faster and more effectively to the current jobs crisis. The UCubed website will have links to our JOBS Now! campaign. And it will enable participants to email members of Congress on urgent issues.
These include the new jobs bill, the expansion of unemployment compensation, the extension of the COBRA subsidy, increased food stamp appropriations, and tax relief. In order for these reforms to become a reality, both Congress and the White House need to hear from the community of unemployed Americans. State officials will also need forceful reminders that the jobless cannot wait for ever; they need jobs now! UCubed activists will make sure that they do.
As the UCubed blocks multiply, we hope to add a searchable skills and talents library. There, both activists and potential employers can find possible barter partners or potential new-hires.
Why is the Machinists Union doing this?
Over 35,000 members of our union have been laid off. Others are working fewer hours each week because their employers simply do not have orders to fill. And the real recovery, not the false one on Wall Street, still seems years away.
UCubed is a way to help our members, but it is also a way to empower all Americans who are currently unemployed. To become a UCubed activist, simply go to www.unionofunem ployed.com. There, you will instantly gain access to a community of Americans who are facing the same hardships of unemployment.
Together, we will not only weather this recession, but emerge from it stronger than ever before.
R. Thomas Buffenbarger is president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.