On Martin Luther King Jr. day this year, 600-700 job seekers showed up at St. Frances Academy Community Center for its ninth annual job fair. Unemployed from around the city went to refresher classes, prayed before their noontime lunch, and then presented resumes prepared earlier in classrooms upstairs from the job fair held in the gymnasium.
So many attendees helped highlight the interest of job seekers in self help. People want to work! The fact is that there are not enough available jobs. In honor of MLK, I made a citywide call for organizers, strategists, jobless, and concerned citizens to discuss creating a demand for more jobs.
Frederick Douglass once reminded us that “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” We know there are plenty of willing workers in Baltimore (perhaps as many as 200,000). They want good jobs with living wages and good benefits. Most have looked for opportunities long and hard. The supply of available jobs is too small.
The din of the crowd made it impossible to have the lunchtime session on, “How do we increase the demand for more jobs in Baltimore?”
Researching, I learned there are scattered groups working with the jobless, including: a minister and union organizers who once brought out 800 jobseekers to demand local hiring within the $1 billion plus in renovations coming to the state office complex; a committee of organizers from BRIDGE (a congregation-based organization for social justice) is applying for funds to organize local jobless to build MTA’s Red Line extension of mass transit in Baltimore; a new group, Communities Unite, is “very interested in winning more jobs in the city” I hear. And another group, United Workers, has been consistently and effectively organizing low wage workers in our city for years. And there are others.
My Big Idea: Why don’t we all work together on demanding more jobs—an issue so important to Baltimore. As a local politician once sloganeered, “Working together works.” Now is the time and our children’s future depends on it.