Not Working

The Pulse of the American Depression

February 11, 2014
by DWGibson

Momentum on Minimum Wage

The efforts to raise the woefully unrealistic minimum wage is gaining more momentum week by week. It’s good to see that the Obama Administration has taken some action without full scale federal legislative action. Moving up the minimum wage on federal contracts is an excellent first step. And many states are poised to take action ahead of the federal government.

It’s very interesting to see how much the restaurant industry has to do with trying to clamp down these efforts.

Keep the strikes coming.


January 14, 2014
by DWGibson

War on Poverty

Recently I came across an excellent essay in the New York Times regarding the past 50 years of the “War on Poverty.” It’s an insightful if not depressing read. Highlights include:

  • The poverty rate has fallen only to 15 percent from 19 percent in two generations
  • 46 million Americans live in households where the government considers their income scarcely adequate
  • About 30 percent of single mothers live in poverty

What’s more, we seem to be lost in a spiraling debate over whether or not government–that is, democracy–has a substantial and direct role to play in addressing poverty. I, for one, have no interest in waiting for the private sector of capitalism to step up to the plate to address the issue. Solving poverty is not a priority or interest for capitalism. So if a democratic government won’t step in to address the problems then what entity will?

As James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky put it: “We need strong economic growth with gains widely distributed. If the private labor market won’t step up to the plate, we’re going to have to strengthen programs to help these people get by and survive.”

December 4, 2013
by DWGibson

Wage Strikes Tomorrow

It seems that we’re not losing any momentum on the national movement to improve the minimum wage across the country. There’s wide reporting on nationwide strikes tomorrow including this mention in the New York Times.

How have we made it this long with such an unlivable minimum wage? Seems impossible. Let’s hit the streets tomorrow!


November 5, 2013
by DWGibson

Light Work Load for Congress

While the unemployment rate in the U.S. remains stubbornly high–we’ve now been over 7% for nearly five years–the U.S. House of Representatives does not seem to be in any hurry to address and debate the problems with labor, let alone solve them. Between now and the end of the year, the House has exactly 16 working days scheduled, and there have been several reports in recent weeks that the Republican leadership is considering reducing that number even further.

What’s more, Eric Cantor recently released the 2014 work schedule and it includes a total of 113 working days. That’s down from 126 in 2013 and certainly far fewer work days than most Americans who are lucky enough to have a job (or two or three or…)

The pay rate for a US representative is $174,000 annually. Given the 2014 schedule, this means that members of the House of Representatives will make approximately $1,539.82 per day or, assuming an eight-hour work day, roughly $192.47 per hour.

Continue Reading →

October 3, 2013
by DWGibson

The Shutdown & Employment

While one faction of one party in one branch of government holds the country hostage over their animosity toward Obamacare, it is hard not to get completely frustrated over the central fact that is missed in the whole mess: American jobs are lost.

How is it that all political rhetoric about employment in this country is about job creation–getting that stubbornly high unemployment rate down–and yet Congress has allowed the government to shut down, temporarily (we can hope) terminating almost two million jobs altogether?

Emily Wax-Thibodeaux has some excellent reporting in the Washington Post regarding the real consequences of the shutdown vis-a-vis jobs. Check out her article on the community of Florissant, Missouri, which has suffered substantially in the past few days and, unfortunately, will suffer for the foreseeable future.

Or until our government pulls it together and opens shop again.

The House of Representatives passed a budget, so did the Senate. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has issued 18 invitations over the last several months for a conference committee to resolve the differences between the two budgets. Each of those requests were ignored by leaders in the House.

It’s time to reopen the government, raise the debt ceiling, then come together and find a budget that will bring more jobs to the millions of Americans who are itching to do meaningful work once again.


September 11, 2013
by DWGibson

The Rich Get Richer

The gap is wider than it’s ever been. Check out this excellent reporting from Annie Lowrey at the New York Times:

The Rich Get Richer Through the Recovery

More than half of the country’s wealth – more than half! – goes to the top 1%. This is a record level that shows no signs of abating. Not quite sure how the middle class is supposed to get its footing in this environment….

August 7, 2013
by DWGibson

Bridgette Lacy & Washington DC

A couple of months ago the Not Working Project partnered with Rep. John Conyers to arrange a congressional briefing on the labor crisis in the US. Bridgette Lacy was one of the Not Working Project participants who was involved in that briefing. As many of you know, Bridgette turned her own experience with unemployment into a regular column on the subject for the News & Observer in Raleigh.

Bridgette wrote a column about her experience in Washington D.C. and I encourage everyone to read it. Bridgette is a first class reporter (she always knows the illuminating questions to ask) and a communicative writer. The fact that she followed up with her own congressional representative and confirmed that he was not present at the hearing is dispiriting but Bridgette’s call to contact the congressman’s office about this is a productive and actionable step for those who share her district.

I encouraged everyone to find out if your representative in congress supports Rep. Conyers bill to set up a full employment trust fund (using taxes on high end investments such as credit default swaps) to guarantee that any American who is willing to work can have a job. What is the argument against this idea? Why can’t the richest nation in the world assure its citizenry the right to work? Somehow this idea is so far off from conventional wisdom of what might be possible in Washington. If your representative has not yet signed on to support the bill, please reach out and encourage her or him to do so.



July 11, 2013
by DWGibson

A Sense of Ending

Recently I was asked to reflect on my visit to Empire, Nevada for The Caravan, and arts & culture magazine in India. If you haven’t yet heard about the specifics of this special small town, please be sure to check it out. It was the last company town in the US until June of 2011 when it was closed. And by closed I mean closed. A fence was put up around the entire community to keep out curious onlookers and the zip code was eliminated.

This loss of community, in my opinion, demonstrates the full measure of the effects of the job crisis in the country.

You can check out the full essay here. 



May 20, 2013
by DWGibson

Not Working Project Congressional Briefing

On Thursday, May 16, Congressman John Conyers hosted a congressional briefing in conjunction with the Not Working Project. The session focused on the enduring unemployment crisis in the country; Rep. Conyers joined three individuals featured in Not Working: Roni Chambers of St. Louis, Bob Bendig of Pittsburgh, and Bridgette Lacy of Raleigh. Chambers, Bendig and Lacy shared their experiences (each of them has a special perspective on unemployment  – you should definitely check out their chapters in the book if you haven’t already) and Rep. Conyers joined the discussion to highlight the necessary role Congress needs to take in being an active participant to reduce unemployment.

The congressman focused his comments on his recently submitted bill:  H.R. 1000, the “Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act.”  This is an important bill and one that the Not Working Project will continue to support in every way possible. Surely the richest nation in the country can provide a job for every citizen willing to work and contribute to the wellness of her community. Here’s to making it happen. Onward.