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Black Workers Center educates workers about job losses


People often wonder how their one vote counts, and whether what happens in the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C., really impact my life all that much?

The Black Worker Center is holding a rally Saturday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at their office at 6569 S. Vermont Ave. designed to educate people about the importance of their single vote.

“Right now about 16 percent of Black workers in Los Angeles are unemployed, and the percentage who are underemployed (working low-wage or part-time jobs) represent more than 30 percent. So, it’s a dual crisis,” explained Lola Smallwood-Cuevas of the Black Worker Center, who added that much of what is causing such challenging situations for Blacks in Los Angeles is determined by values and choices being made at different levels of power.

She went on to connect this crisis to what is happening in Congress. We have a Congress that is proposing a bill, H.R.1, seeking to reduce almost $2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding through the elimination of a host of line items,” Smallwood-Cuevas pointed out.

She said these include job creation funds, money from the Worksource centers; cuts from the green job innovation fund; national infrastructure projects including rail, which L.A. officials are expecting to help create jobs. In fact, the organizer said that some of the funding already earmarked for rail projects is in jeopardy.

Smallwood-Cuevas also said that $1 billion in community block funds that underwrite such social service programs as midnight summer lights basketball, summer youth employment programs, and more is in danger of being wiped out.

And cutting these social service programs ultimately leads to elimination of the jobs required to administer and operate them. Many of these positions are filled by Blacks.

On top of eliminating funding for social services, Smallwood-Cuevas points to the attack on collective bargaining among public employee unions where about 40 percent of the workers are Black.

In contrast to the private sector, where discrimination has kept African Americans out, collective bargaining has set up a series of contracts in the public sector that spell out worker rights and benefits, Smallwood-Cuevas said. These have played a tremendous part in Black workers gaining equality, and have been the best check and balance system for Black workers since Martin Luther King Jr. marched for the rights of sanitation workers in Memphis, she said.

Smallwood-Cuevas said efforts to dismantle collective bargaining agreements in public sector unions, which is comprised of groups like DMV clerks, teachers, librarians and others, is an attack on the final leg of the three-legged Black worker job stool that once consisted of manufacturing in the 1970s and human services from the 1970s on. Most of these jobs are gone, pointed out Smallwood-Cuevas.

After the Black worker rally, which will include a skit demonstrating the importance of collective bargaining to African Americans, Smallwood-Cuevas said demonstrators will caravan to the convention center to join a larger rally, where some 10,000 workers are expected to assemble at 10 a.m. and then march to Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.

The larger rally will address the broader view of what and how the proposed federal cuts and the pressures on collective bargaining agreements have and will impact local workers all across the board.