EC: Each of the bills that we’ve introduced, if approved, would immediately address a number of issues that all Americans face — African Americans just face them in larger percentages. [What they address] is job training, government-supported jobs programs, as well as the funding of projects similar to what President Roosevelt used in his fight against the Depression in the 1930s.
We know that the chances of our legislation being brought to the floor are not very high, if they register at all. Nonetheless, no one will be able to say that the Congressional Black Caucus sat on its hands and did nothing while Rome burned. We’ve introduced legislation, we have made appeals to the White House, we have made appeals to the Republicans and, frankly, to the Democratic Caucus as well. We want it to be said of the Congressional Black Caucus that we did everything that we could conceivably do to solve the knotty problem of unemployment.
And look — at our job fairs, we’re going to have people hired, but there’s no way we’re going to get enough people hired to dramatically reduce the number of the African-American unemployed.
TR: The CBC also wasn’t able to pass a direct jobs-creation bill during the two years that Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Why didn’t the Democrats do it then?
EC: Well, we did get some things through the House, during the days of the Democratic majority in the House, but they didn’t get through the Senate. We got an extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [Emergency Contingency Fund] [pdf] through. The American Clean Energy and Security Act [pdf] also passed the House, which would have made dollars available for not only the creation of green-collar jobs but the creation of a structure that would make those jobs functional in the future.
As angry as I get with my fellow Democrats in the House, I’ve got to say that we did send bills to the Senate that would have made a dramatic difference had they been approved. The Senate, you know, does what the Senate does — which is nothing.
TR: What kinds of companies will participate in the CBC job fairs, and are they really hiring?
EC: This will not be the traditional job fair where the vice president of communications comes out to talk about how great the company is, and how they want people to keep them in mind when there are openings. The only companies we’re inviting to participate are companies that are hiring now.
We have a jobs advisory council that we’re working with from all different industries, from the hospitality industry to food services to corporate America. We want to make sure that the needs of everyone who comes out are met.
TR: What do you hope to get out of the tour’s town hall component?
EC: That is an area that’s actually more compatible with what the Progressive Caucus is doing. We would love to have anecdotal data about what’s going on out here in the country. The view by many who are fortunate enough to have jobs is that unemployed people are somehow unworthy, are simply sluggish and just don’t want to work.