99ers protest cutoff of benefits
Published Aug 22, 2010 10:01 PM
New York — Chants of “We want jobs!” rang out at the
corner of Wall and Broad streets in the shadow of the Stock Exchange at noon on
Aug. 12 as the “99ers” made their first appearance in struggle in
The name refers to workers who have been jobless for so long that their
unemployment benefits have run out after they received 99 weeks of payments.
Many had been working for decades before they were laid off in 2007 or 2008 as
the economic crisis took hold.
More than 100 such unemployed workers and their supporters answered an Internet
call posted by Kian Frederick — who chaired the rally — and the
three other founders of the group, themselves all 99ers. They set up an
Internet website and started communicating among themselves and working to get
favorable publicity for legislation extending benefits. There is a bill before
the U.S. Senate to provide another extension of unemployment benefits —
Tier 5 — to states where the official unemployment rate is greater than
Most of the participants were meeting each other for the first time at the
protest. Nevertheless, there was an obvious sense of solidarity among the
assembled unemployed workers, whatever their individual situations. Frederick
said that 66 of the 100 attending the protest were unemployed people who signed
up to be on the group’s mailing list.
According to the comments and slogans at the protest, most need an extension of
benefits but would prefer to find a steady job at decent pay. “We need a
Tier 5 to survive,” “A job is a right” and “Jobs or
income now” were among the slogans. A delegation from the Professional
Staff Congress, representing CUNY teachers and other workers, held a banner at
Some of those attending the protest expressed the hope that this movement can
spread beyond its initial Internet success to reach into areas of the country
with the highest unemployment and not only win greater jobless benefits but
also launch a struggle to provide jobs for millions.
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