Unemployed workers pitched tents in front of the Georgia Department of Labor June 24 in downtown Atlanta in preparation for spending the night. The action was intended to symbolize the loss of housing and other necessities of life experienced by untold numbers of workers in the state, where unemployment benefits have been delayed for months. All Georgia DOL offices have been closed and barricaded since the pandemic began in March of 2020.
To make matters even more dire, tens of thousands of Georgians will be deprived of $300 of weekly federal unemployment funds as of June 26. The decision by Governor Brian Kemp and DOL Secretary Mark Butler is widely understood to be their way to force workers to take low-wage jobs in the hotel, restaurant and other service fields. The Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders have loudly complained that the additional money made it too easy for workers to stay home. Georgia’s unemployment benefits range from $147 to $365 a week, and Georgia’s vaccination rate is among the country’s lowest.
The sleep-in generated a lot of media coverage. The organizations that sponsored it — Georgia Unemployment Issues, the Atlanta-N. Georgia Labor Council, New Georgia Project and others — vow to continue the fight.