cross-posted from Progressive Junction
In November of 2008, approximately 10.3 million people in the U.S. were unemployed according to the Department of Labor. This number is more than the entire population of Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming combined. However, the number does not include another 6 million or so people who are underemployed, nor does it include recent college grads who cannot find work but cannot file for unemployment due to not having worked. Needless to say the American job market is in dire straits and getting worse.
A week ago, this was a minor issue for me personally. Sure I care about the unemployment rate and the economy as a whole, but like a good progressive, I also care about peace, and the environment, I care about civil liberties like gay marriage and abortion rights, and I especially care about the corruption and down right ignorance of the right wing and how their ideology has ruined this country for eight long years.
But that was last week.
On the 23rd of December, I was fired from my job for incompetence. I was (still am?) a poker dealer in Florida. Throughout my career, I never thought of myself as incompetent or even sub-par. In fact, I felt as though I was one of the best dealers in the poker room I worked at and this sentiment was shared by quite a few of my co-workers as well as a majority of the management. But a sequence of unfortunate events led to my firing. The details of the circumstances are complex and technical so I won't elaborate on them. I will only say that I did make mistakes, they were small and inconsequential mistakes that would be allowed to slide had they happened in alternative circumstances, say in another poker room or even to another person in the same poker room.
The fact of the matter is, in any industry or profession or job, if the boss likes someone personally, that person is allowed a lot more leeway, and if not, that person is given very little room for error. I was unfortunately the latter.
In addition, another poker room in my city was bought and the entire senior management immediately fired. Our manager began hiring some of these people (who happen to be his old friends) as dealers, even though we were already way over-staffed. This action put everyone on edge since it was inevitable that some people would have to be let go to make room for the boss's friends. I was a casualty of that cause. Needless to say, always going to work nervous and worried about keeping your job is quite an annoying feeling and one that I'm glad is gone. It's the only bright spot in losing my job.
So yesterday I did something I never thought I would do, I filed for unemployment benefits. This is not the first time I've been unemployed in my life, but it is the first time that I am worried about my prospects enough to file for benefits. The other poker room that was bought was going down fast, and the industry in general has been regressing here for the last few months. That is an especially harrowing sign for an industry that usually thrives during economic down turns, and in a state which has only recently allowed the industry to expand and truly flourish. My prospects at this point are grim, since my entire work experience is confined to three industries: the gaming industry, the mortgage industry, and the restaurant industry.
But this is not a boo-hoo cry for me entry. I've had the best year of my life (thanks in a large part to Barack Obama). I realize that I'm still one of the lucky ones. I was able to save a little bit of a nest egg which coupled with unemployment benefits afford me two or three months of time to find a job before I have to take seriously drastic measures like losing my car or my condo. There are people out there, maybe even reading this, that are in much worse shape than I am, who've already lost everything and who have little hope.
For those of you in this situation, the more than 10.3 million that I have now joined, I'm writing to let you know I've retained my hope and I hope that you retain yours. The success of the Obama campaign taught me that hope changes everything. Maybe the investment of our time and money to Obama will pay off with a slew of new jobs, and maybe we will be fortunate enough to get those jobs. Maybe we'll end up making less, but I hope we get jobs that pay more. One thing is for sure, without hope none of this would have been possible and we would be in much worse shape than we are now. Without hope this entry and even this website would not exist. Without hope, Barack Obama would not be our president.
Hope changes everything.