Announcing the Launch of a Campaign for Good Jobs
President Obama will address a joint meeting of Congress later today to lay out his jobs plan. I wish him well on this speech, but I know that no national speech by a Democrat, Republican or Tea Partier can fully address Hawaii's families' employment needs.
I need to know how we are going to get Hawaii back to work. Sure, our unemployment statistics look good compared to the rest of the country, but this economic crisis has hit Hawaii differently that most other states. Hawaii's unemployment rate, for example, does not take into account everyone who used to work two jobs and now only has one. Or the people who had a landscaping or cleaning business on the side for which they cannot collect unemployment when business dries up.
I have lost track of all the people I know who have had their hours cut at work, lost some or all of their benefits or have taken a reduction in pay over the last year. And these are the lucky ones who are happy they still have a job! How are your friends and families faring? These losses may not seem like much now, but a cut in hours or pay adds up day after day, month after month until our families could lose significant educational and other opportunities.
I need to know how we are going to get Hawaii back to work because a member of my congregation and good friend Napua cannot make ends meet. She is very good at and loves her job in customer service. Her hours, like those of her coworkers, have been cut. It is hard for her to get a second job in this economy, especially when she needs to be ready to work any hours that become available at her primary job. Napua's son will be looking for a job soon, what are his prospects? Napua recently told her story at a public meeting and from the response from the crowd, I could tell that there were many more people facing exactly what Napua is facing.
I also know we need to get Hawaii back to work because my grown children are struggling. My daughter and grandson have moved back in with me and my other daughter is working in California, but wants to get back to Hawaii. For my grown children, living in Hawaii should not have to mean living in my house! I love them but they want homes of their own and they are willing and able to work. But where is the work? Many have called this the "jobless recovery", but I don't think we will ever recover without jobs.
Instead of waiting for someone to tell me how they are to get Hawaii back to work, I am going to be part of the solution. As a member of Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), I would like to announce the creation of our Campaign for Good Jobs. This campaign will help protect the good jobs we already have and support the creation of more good jobs. This campaign will be run by a diverse committee of community leaders from Maui and Oahu, public and private sector workers, small business owners and clergy, retired people and students, we are pledging to identify practical ways to get Hawaii back to work and to develop the political will necessary to implement these solutions before it is too late.
In the next few months, our Campaign for Good Jobs will be interviewing business owners, union leaders, local farmers, professors and national policy makers about what they see as the most practical ways to get Hawaii back to work. We have already heard that healthcare jobs will be a high growth area that our kids need to be ready for. We have also heard that too many government contracts are going to mainland companies that fly their own workers into Hawaii while our workers apply for unemployment. We also know Hawaii farmers who would love to grow more delicious and nutritious local food for us, but our state ships in too much competing food from offshore.
Governor Abercrombie has said that we should figure out a way to grow ourselves out of debt and into a more viable, diverse economy where our families and neighbors have access to good jobs and our kids don't have to move away to find work. Focusing on growth transcends the arguments about taxes vs. spending. Optimism, growth and abundance are the way Americans have dealt with these challenges in the past.
Listen to the President's speech tonight and listen to the responses from the other parties. I hope that they figure out some practical solutions that will get our families back to work, but I am also ready to do my part to be the solution for Hawaii.
About the author: Stan Franco is deacon at St. Theresa's Church, Kihei, Maui; member of the Maui County General Plans Committee; former President of FACE MAUI, former Executive Director of Maui Catholic Charities; current member of FACE HAWAII's Statewide Jobs Committee; and father of three daughters and four grandsons.