By Joseph Phelan Like every picture is worth a thousand words, every truth has a cost and the numbers never lie. In this economic crisis unemployment is hitting Black and Latino communities hard. But it isn’t just the numbers that matter, it’s the stories they represent. Last Thursday night at a union hall in Orlando, members of the Miami Workers Center, Florida New Majority, Central Florida Jobs with Justice and AFL-CIO started to make some new numbers. Fifty people signed up to fight for good union jobs. They started telling their stories, how they resist and live even when we are facing an uphill battle. Over 60 people gathered together to hear the results of a new study released by the Miami Workers Center, Kirwan Institute, and RISEP, called "Beyond the Quick Fix: ARRA Contracting, Jobs, and Building a Fair Recovery for Florida."The study looked at how well the American Recovery and Reinvestment act, which has been in effect for a year now, is helping the people who’ve been hit hardest by the recession." Badili Jones of Florida New Majority laid out some of the report’s findings: Only 3 out of 49 contractors awarded ARRA money in Florida are businesses owned by people of color. These so-called “minority-owned businesses” are getting less than 1% of the value of contracts in the state. Also from the report:
Across the four Florida metropolitan regions the report focused on–Miami?Dade, Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville–7 out of 10 Blacks and half of all Latinos live in areas with low access to opportunity, while only 3 out of 10 non?Hispanic whites live in such areas. It’s these low?opportunity areas that have been hardest hit by the recession. Unemployment in Miami Gardens jumped from 8?9% before the recession to 16% this August.
The audience listened to a panel of union leaders, a college professor and political science student present different perspectives on the economic crisis and jobs. Then the collected group of union members, residents and community activists participated in a lively discussion of what should be done in Orland, Florida. Amy, who can’t find work so she’s forced to squat in an empty building with her family and Jerry, an out of work truck driver who has resorted to collecting cans on the street to survive and at the same time face the indignity of the welfare line told their stories. They discussed what the strategic fight will be to increase spending on jobs for communities of color. People stayed late talking about what they could do. They pushed past the numbers and saw what could be possible when we connect with the stories. The town hall was a part of the Build a Fair Florida, a statewide campaign supporting local grassroots fights while shifting values in the Sunshine State. Check out the report by clicking here.