Brenda Eichelberg is wife to 99er Jim, mom to 5, and stepmom to 2. When she isn't working or wrangling small boys, she contributes to the revolution from her Northern Illinois home.
Having visited Madison, WI when the 14 Democratic senators returned to their home state, and participated in the rally against Gov. Walker's bill to take away collective bargaining, my husband, Jim, and I were ripe to get involved in something else. A website mentioned a 'National March for Jobs' on April 2, 2011. Since Jim, is a 99er and now off all unemployment benefits, we felt this was definitely something we could support. We have a large family, and while I do work, it is not nearly enough to make basic ends meet. We live very frugally, and get by on very little. We are behind on all bills except rent. We cannot afford to send my daughter to the colleges she has been accepted to, despite her receiving numerous scholarships. We eat very plain, cheap meals. We have to ask for fee reductions, scholarships, etc all the time. Jim has been laid off since April 2009. We are tired, and disgusted, frustrated, and desperate.
As I searched online and spoke to people, I found there wasn't much information on this national march. I decided to organize something locally here, since we could never afford to go to Washington, DC anyway, where the main march was to be. I met up with a man, Dan, who runs a website www.99ers.net [he is self employed but sympathetic to the cause] and he offered to make a Chicago-only page for me. And thus the networking had begun!
I began to find other sites to advertise our march, one being the Yelp.com Chicago thread. A few people agreed with me and even said they would attend but mostly I was flamed for being an idiot, thinking a march would help, and thinking that the unemployment problem is as bad as it is. But, whenever someone has a idea there are always going to be nay-sayers and my husband and I plugged on. I do not naively trust my government and I do not think they are really set on fixing this epidemic.
On Friday, April 1, we packed a lunch, and made signs that said things like: Give My Dad a Job, What About My Future, Unemployed Doesn't Mean Unmotivated, HR 589 & HR 1113: Criticial, and HR 589 HR 1113-Help for the Unemployed. We used the children's construction paper and stapled them to sticks. We printed up 250 flyers giving non-partisian web sites to learn more about the two HR bills, and also a site where you can look up your elected officials to contact them. I had sent out press releases [which also received tons of criticisms online. I am not a pro here, people!] also to the tv stations in Chicago, too.
The next morning, Jim, myself and 5 of our 7 children [the oldest and the baby stayed home] set out for Millennium Park, where we had decided to meet to begin the rally. It's an hour and a half, one way, from our place and with gas nearing $4 a gallon, it wasn't a small jaunt. I figured that the park was a good place, as it's easy to find and is popular. We paid $14 to park and headed over to the waiting throngs of protesters equally incensed by the government's lack of caring about this critical issue. Surely lots of folks would come!
Not even 5 minutes after arriving, security asked us to leave as 'protests' were not allowed on park property. The guard was very nice and even took two flyers. We had to go across Michigan Ave, so we did. I sent web updates from my phone to let the folks know to look for us there but no one came. So, Jim and my oldest son went down to the end of the corner while the rest of the children and myself stood more towards the other end and we began to hand out our flyers. CBS 2 Chicago called me as we had driven into the city and asked how many people I was expecting. I said I honestly didn't know. No one else ever came. People stopped, read the signs, and we didn't encounter any negativity. People won't take a flyer if they don't want it, and I told the kids not to take it personally. I had one strange comment about how if all the countries in the world used more birth control, there would be more jobs. Um...ok.... But other than that, people were either silent or positive. Someone gave the children candy that was being handed out down the street. A lady gave Jim her business card, asking him to email her his resume. [He did, nothing happened, but it was a nice gesture on her part!] A lot of people commented that they supported us, were glad we were standing up for it [why aren't they?], and that they agreed. We found that having the two youngest boys hand out flyers got them passed out a lot faster, as people find it hard to refuse a cute little guy! One lady even gave my son a $1, insisting he take it. Someone else thought we were taking donations and had a $10 ready.[Dang, we could have had gas money!] A family with a college-age son stopped and we found out they had also been in Madison when we were up there. Their older son will be out of a job soon, and the one with them took a picture of himself with us, to discuss at his Students in Democracy class. Some Columbia art students took pictures of us, too.
All told, we were downtown about 3 hours or so, as we didn't leave until the last flyer was gone. To leave any sooner would have been defeat and darn it, if no one else cared, we were not going to be like them!
We made a bit of a field trip out of it, walking around the park, enjoying some sights there later. We felt that good had been done that day.
As Jim and I reflected lthat night, it made me angry that not one other person showed up. And since the 'march' no one has commented on any of the sites that they had come to the park and couldn't find us. Some idiot even wrote that there never was a march and that the unemployed are too lazy to even come that type of thing, no wonder they are too lazy to find jobs! I hate the ring of truth to that statement. I know that unemployed people, 99ers, etc are looking and by and large are not lazy and shiftless. But where WERE they? Why didn't anyone come?
Ever since I saw Roger & Me when I was in junior high, I have appreciated Michael Moore. I don't agree with all his positions, but his diligence for the American worker is beyond passionate and I have always liked how he seems so fearless, just trotting up to GM or Capitol Hill or wherever. He does something. He makes people think. That is why I knew we could do this. Every time I get done watching one of his movies, I think I should DO something! But before this, I never knew what! Now I do!
I have since realized that there never was a national march. It was just somebody's idea that doing something like that would be good, but that person has never even written back to me so I don't even know if they had a march in their hometown even! Another guy in Dallas held a march, but had a small turnout as well and was pretty disgusted like we were. It makes me sick that those Yelp people may very well be the majority! "Trust the government" "Things aren't that bad" "Unemployed people deserve to be" etc etc! This can't really be what people are thinking, can it? Some of the people who said that are unemployed, too! Are people really that content to just sit back and let this all go to hell in a handbasket? Do they REALLY think the government has their best interest at heart? Do they REALLY not care about anything unless it affects them directly? Jim sends out over 10 resumes weekly, plus filling out applications, etc. He is a mechanic by trade, having gone to school to get his certificate, but also does a lot of other kind of work. He has applied for everything, regardless of whether it's mechanic-related or not, close to home or not, low pay or not. We have even thought of him leaving the state to find work! Lazy, NO WAY. And I know others like him, too!
Other countries revolt and get results, I believe, because the governments see that they are a force to be reckoned with, that the people aren't going to sit back quietly and let their lives be determined for them. Why don't we feel that way here, in America, where we are in the greatest country in world and yet at home watching 'Jersey Shore' and news that has been so sugar-coated and censored, it is barely informative.
I am angry now, as is Jim. Corporations can't be favored anymore, laws need to be in place to encourage re-hiring and real business growth, and unemployment benefits need to be extended for the 99ers. Discrimination against the unemployed needs to be actively dealt with, especially for the long-term unemployed and the older unemployed person. The American worker needs to take back their country!
I am so angry I could spit! We are going to plan something for July. This isn't over by a long shot! Something has to give!
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