Carolyn Samora’s future is uncertain.
After working 14 years as a teachers’ aide at the John Swett Elementary School in San Francisco, Samora was laid off at the end of the term last year. She received unemployment insurance over the summer, but with no health benefits, she struggled to obtain the medication she needs for her high blood pressure.
Down but not out, Samora reapplied for a position at the school that fall and landed an eight-week assignment as a fill-in for another paraprofessional who is now on leave. But once summer rolls around again, Samora will be out of a job — again — and forced to reapply for yet another position in the new school year.
“It’s hard to start over in a new field in a tight job market. I always expected to retire from the school system,” says Samora, who earned close to $26,000.
But it doesn’t seem as though that will happen. Samora, 45, spends most of her time on temporary status. When she does work, it’s only for six to eight weeks at a time. If she is not rehired in September, her chance at earning retirement benefits will be in jeopardy, as will her day-to-day financial health. As the main breadwinner in her household, Samora depends on a regular salary to support her father, LeRoy; 20-year-old son, Joseph; and 5-year-old granddaughter, Layla.
Samora is one of 300 school paraprofessionals in San Francisco who were laid off last year as part of state budget cutbacks. But her job situation is hardly unique to the Bay Area. In fact, it is a metaphor for the precarious times millions of Americans are facing today.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8.4 million people were out of work as of March 2004. The unemployment rate of 5.7%, with 10.2% for African Americans, has remained virtually unchanged in the last year.
Joblessness continues to be a serious issue nationwide. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been eliminated altogether, while many positions have been outsourced overseas with little chance of returning. But not all of the layoffs have taken place in the private sector, where huge corporations are slashing jobs to save a buck. As state and local governments also look for ways to cut costs, workers providing a variety of public services are being handed pink slips as well.
African Americans seem to have been hit the harder than any other ethnic group. The black unemployment rate is twice that of whites, with college-educated African American applicants experiencing greater difficulty landing jobs than lesser-educated whites.
According to a March New York Times article, one out of every two African American males in New York City between the ages of 18 and 54 are unemployed.
With the 2004 presidential election just months away, African Americans are looking for a candidate who will provide solutions to the high unemployment that continues to threaten middle- and low-income families throughout the country. Black voters are looking for remedies that will stimulate economic growth in a post-war environment. They’re counting on strategies that