Click here to check the ultimate guide to learn how to leverage your PC and internet to make money online.
The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

99ers Rally For Unemployment Extension

Despite its small size, the 99ers’ rally accomplished an important goal: It got the attention of the press, and advocates for the 99ers see the press as the key to creating pressure for legislation.

Jaya Mckeown
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Aug 13, 2010

The unemployed rallied on Wall Street, in lower Manhattan. (Creative Commons)

After 99 weeks, or more, of unemployment, traveling to a political rally is a luxury. Across the country, thousands of 99ers, Americans who have exhausted the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits, have written letters or called Congress advocating for legislation extending benefits or creating jobs programs. But the first 99ers rally, held on Wall Street this Thursday, proved a more modest affair.

[Congress1] Normally, the unemployed suffer from political disenfranchisement, on top of the hardships of joblessness, including loss of income, poorer health outcomes and eroding skills. But a group of activists working online have founded list-servs and websites to connect hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers. And they have teamed up with major labor unions, like the AFL-CIO and the SEIU, to flex their political might. Up until now, their efforts have been virtual; at Thursday’s rally, the unemployed took to the streets for the first time.

The rally came at a good time politically. Despite the very long odds of passage, Senate and House Democrats have originated two bills to aid the 99ers in the past 10 days. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) introduced a bill moving the maximum number of weeks of federal and state benefits to 119 last week. And this week, Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.) and Shelley Berkley (Nv.) introduced similar legislation in the House.

But just two dozen or so 99ers and a few dozen more unemployed persons met on the steps of Federal Hall, across from the New York Stock Exchange. (Most of the 99ers or figures in the unemployment netroots I spoke with before the event said that they could not afford the gas or plane ticket to get to the rally.) Members of the Transport Workers Union of America Local 100 and the United Federation of Teachers joined them.

A few hiccups marred the event. The weather hardly cooperated, with spitting rain and punishing heat and humidity. Additionally, the organizers failed to register for a sound permit, so the New York City Policy officers keeping the peace ordered activists to put away the megaphone about 10 minutes into the event.

Organized by the fledgling Unemployed Workers Action Group, the rally called for an expansion of unemployment insurance and jobs programs for the long-term unemployed. There are an estimated 1.5 million 99ers across the country, and their plight results from a recession with not just an unusually high unemployment rate, but an unusually long average duration of unemployment. Indeed, a typical jobless worker — of whom there are 14.6 million — has been out of work for more than 34 weeks, about 8 months, a length unprecedented since the Great Depression.

Despite its small size, the 99ers’ rally accomplished an important goal: It got the attention of the press, and advocates for the 99ers see the press as the key to creating pressure for legislation. “Two months ago, nobody knew who the 99ers were,” LaDona King, a 99er and major figure in the 99er netroots told me. “Everybody thought it was some city’s AAA baseball team.”

But with growing awareness, they hope, will come political action. To that end, a volunteer at the rally took journalists’ names and numbers, and ensured that any reporter wanting access to a 99er for her story got easy access to several. Late in the event, Ed Schultz — the MSNBC and radio host who has devoted countless programming minutes to the 99ers, and for that reason holds nearly beatific standing among them — stood in a pair of khaki shorts at the back, conducting interviews and shaking hands. (He planned to address the crowd, but could not because of the noise permit issue.)

And with the press there, the 99ers at the rally got their chance to speak, and tell their stories. Betty S. Cohen, of Brooklyn, worked as an administrative assistant at an investment bank — not a commercial bank, she notes — for two years before she was laid off in July 2008. “My skills are excellent,” she sighs, “but I can’t get a job anywhere.” She has applied to hundreds of positions via and other online search engines, as well as contacting former employers and friends for leads. “I have gotten five calls, and no offers.” she says. “They don’t tell you why.”

She has long since exhausted any savings, does not have any living family and is increasingly late on her rent and bills, though she says she was recently approved for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits. “A friend loaned me $20,” she says. “And I told her I didn’t know when I would pay it back. I offered to pay her back in food. I can buy that now, at least.”

Marion Glandorf formerly worked for Grenadier Realty Corp. on Roosevelt Island as an executive assistant. She managed contractor relationships for 1,100 apartments, assessed tenant needs and answered scores of calls per day. She came to the rally — she notes she is not a 99er, not yet — wearing a giant sign with her resume on it around her neck.

Joining her was Bob Kohler of Suffolk County, New York. He had worked as an IT project manager before the recession, and has focused on writing motivational works about the power of positive thinking and the need to accept hardship. (He said the angry tone of the rally, with speakers shouting at the nearby investment banks, would prove counterproductive.)

Kohler did not realize his unemployment insurance would run out shortly after Christmas. It just stopped. “It happened abruptly,” he said, and his wife and he had not adequately prepared. “The American dream?” he says, softly. “It’s decimated.”

The rally attempted to capture that sense of decimation, with speakers sharing their stories of hardship — the loss of homes, the loss of respect, the trouble with health, the depression — on the Federal Hall steps, facing the New York Stock Exchange. Some rallied against the banks nearby, but most focused on the need for congressional jobs bills and a Tier V.

Dozens of tourists stopped to listen and to clap in support among the protesters and the camera crews. So did a few investment bankers. “Get a fucking job” shouted one young man dressed, stereotypically, in a dark suit, red tie and loafers, his hair sharply parted. He was booed.

Jaya Mckeown | Jaya moved to Boston from New York to pursue a master's degree in corporate communications at Emerson College. This experience, combined with her undergraduate degree in psychology and teaching, has equipped her with valuable skills that she employs on a daily basis in real estate negotiations, homebuyer and seller education, and successful promotion of the team's listings. Jaya's clients often characterize her as meticulous, proactive, and enjoyable to be around.


$1.89 billion given to states to fight HIV

The federal government Monday announced more than $1.89 billion in funding to states to fight the HIV epidemic with access to care and with more cash for the failing AIDS Drug Assistance Program. According to an HHS press release , $813 million of that money will go directly to the ADAP programming. An additional $8,386,340 will be issued as a supplement to 36 states and territories currently facing a litany of unmet needs and access issues.

Army Data Shows Constraints on Troop Increase Potential

If President Obama orders an additional 30,000 to 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, he will be deploying practically every available U.S. Army brigade to war, leaving few units in reserve in case of an unforeseen emergency and further stressing a force that has seen repeated combat deployments since 2002.

1. Brian Schweitzer

As governor of Montana, Schweitzer doesn’t represent one of the most highly populated, high-profile electoral states in the country. But this

$1.3 Million for Brown

The GOP’s candidate in the Massachusetts special election raised more than one million dollars -- double the goal -- in a 24-hour moneybomb on the Ron Paul

$1.3 trillion in federal spending unaccounted for, report finds

Despite calls for independent bodies to keep government accountable, the Sunlight Foundation’s most recent Clearspending report has found the federal

#1 in Conspiracy Theories

Andrew Young’s tell-all biography of John Edwards, hitting shelves next week, is surging in one category in particular. #1 in Conspiracy

1 Brigade and 1 Battalion

ISTANBUL – It’s 10 p.m. in the lowest level of the Istanbul airport. In 20 minutes I’ll be allowed to board my plane to Kabul, bringing me to the

$1 Million for Toomey

Pat Toomey, the former Club for Growth president and leading Republican candidate in Pennsylvania’s 2010 Senate race, has announced a $1 million haul in the

1. Lindsey Graham

Sen. Graham (R-S.C.) is typically regarded as a reliable vote for his party, but he took the bold step of breaking with his fellow Republicans to join Kerry

Bachmann uncomfortable over earmarks ban

Republicans appear to have boxed themselves into a corner with their portrayal of earmarks as wasteful spending, as many of them have backed a moratorium on

Troubled mine holds hope for U.S. rare earth industry

China currently controls 97 percent of the world’s rare earth production. The Mountain Pass Mine could change that -- if it can overcome serious environmental concerns.

© Copyright 2021 The Washington Independent All Rights Reserved

Terms & Privacy |

Click here to check the ultimate guide to learn how to leverage your PC and internet to make money online.