Thursday, March 15, 2012


Chase bank repossesses 99er's car, just as she finds job and a home after years of being jobless and homeless.

by Kian Frederick and Alexandra Jarrin
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Originally posted on

With small improvements in job creation over the past few months many are hopeful that the economy is on the mend, however slowly. No group of people are more hopeful than the long-term unemployed. This is especially true of the “99ers”, former working and middle class, skilled and professional labor, and middle management folks who were laid off and exhausted their unemployment insurance before they could find a job during this crisis.

This hope, however, is dimmed by a perverse Catch-22: what happens if, now that a glimmer of hope for work may be emerging, some people won't be able to get to a new job, even if they are offered one? For those living in small towns and rural areas, a car is a lifeline, without which many will not be able to return to the work force, despite more jobs being created and their desperation for work. Since most laid off people had good jobs and credit while they were working, they qualified for and received car loans from major banks. Now, after struggling through such hard times, many have had their cars repossessed (and credit ruined), because they couldn't make the payments. Safety net programs don't cover an emergency car payment and with every charity stretched to its last, scarce dollar, cars are considered a luxury, not a necessity. It's also no surprise that the bailed out banks who hold these loans could care less.

Here is one example of the Catch-22 many now face. You might remember Alexandra Jarrin, the mother of three and former executive who was laid off in 2008 and eventually became a “99er”. After losing everything, she ended up homeless. An August, 2010, New York Times article about Alexandras' plight was one of the first to bring national attention to the explosion of 99ers, and CNN has covered some of her efforts to get help for the foreclosed and forgotten. Like so many, in recent years Alex has fought back, scraped and struggled to reclaim her life. Now, however, she could lose everything because Chase bank repossessed her car, which she bought a few months before her 2008 lay-off, financing the purchase with a loan from Chase. Here's what happened:

Alexandra Jarrin:
“Last September, I finally found a job and, a few months later, I was able to rent a small apartment. I took the first job that was offered to me, selling cable subscriptions door to door at 100% commission. It's wasn't great, but of course I grabbed it while continuing to look for a job in my field. It was difficult; I'm not a sales person, but I was out there knocking on doors, happy to have a way to support myself. I also finally found a place to live! After everything over the past few years, I honestly felt some hope for the first time”.

“As I was waiting to move in, I came down with pneumonia. At first, I didn't know what it was and continued to trudge through the Vermont cold knocking on doors. Finally, I was forced to go to the doctor and learned it was pneumonia. I thought, well, I can't stop now! I was ready to move into my new apartment and nothing was going to defeat me. I had vowed I would never, ever, become homeless again.”

“Soon after I moved in, sales slowed. I kept knocking, but sales were scarce. I was finding most people where not interested in changing what they had for services, or they were dealing with financial issues just like me. Still, I kept knocking, and even with sales slowing down, I managed to pay my rent, but fell behind in my car payments”.

At the same time, I was finally scheduled for needed parathyroid surgery that had been delayed for months because of the difficulties in finding a surgeon and hospital that took my health insurance. Between the pneumonia and the scheduling of my surgery, the doctors required that I not be out in the cold, wet weather knocking on doors. They were concerned about other illnesses I could get that would prevent the surgery and worsen my pneumonia”.

“I tried to find ways to keep selling cable. Calling people I had met or that other people had given me as leads, but sales continued to drop. There really is no other way to get to people but by knocking on their doors”.

“After struggling through all these hard years to keep up with my car payments, I've now fallen three months behind. I've called Chase what seems like a thousand times, beginning before I was delinquent, and begged them to renegotiate or somehow lower my payments; anything to help me through this, but they refused. They just didn't care. We have to bail them out because they are “too big to fail”, but I guess they don't have to do anything for us because we're “too small to matter”.

“Finally, they came and took my car last Saturday morning. This has happened at the worst possible time. Jobs are starting to open up and I was starting to have conversations with HR personnel regarding positions in my field. I even started to have some interviews. I am so close to a solid step in reclaiming my life, or building a new life, this is a cruel punch in the gut!”.

“Now, I am stranded without any way to work my cable job, get to interviews or in to town. I live on the outskirts of a small town in Southern Vermont. The walk is way too long to get into town and there is no public transportation where I live. There is no one to ask for rides, no cars to borrow. Losing my car completely isolates me from everything and everyone, but the hardest part is that I can't work”.

“I had stellar credit, for years, when I was working; in my “before” life. Now, all that's gone and my options are very limited. Before, I always paid my bills on time and maintained my credit. I believe in meeting my responsibilities. I want to pay off my car loan; walking away is just not an option. Even in the darkest days, when I was homeless, I always, somehow, made my car payments because, yes, I needed the car, but it was also a source of pride for me. I was able to hold my head up about one thing, at least”.

“I have a very limited amount of time to get my car back, about a week. Chase has told me they will put it up for auction on or about March 26th, just after my 51st birthday, unless I come up with $2500. Might as well be $25 million, really”. Before the repossession I owed three payments in total, approximately $1100.00 including a small fee for being late. Now, I have to pay all the late payments, the late fees, one additional payment for April and the repossession fee. They also added on top of everything else a $25.00 miscellaneous fee that no one can explain. Chase told me to stay in touch with them so they can tell me what the total is as they get updates from the repossession company. “Oh my word, how much more can they add to it?”

“Throughout the hard times, I've borrowed from every friend I know and have literally been blessed by kindness of strangers. I have searched everywhere but there is no emergency hardship funding for car payments, despite how crucial having a car is for those of us who do not live in big cities. And, since my credit is shot because of everything else, no bank will give me a loan”.

“After everything, it's so devastating to be so, so close and have it all taken away so fast, once again. I finally have a roof over my head and prospects for a real job are looking very good, but without a car it all means nothing”.

“It is awful to ask for help. I think most people want to rely on themselves; I know I do. But, asking for help is what I'm doing. I refuse to believe that I'm done; that all that's left for me is a return to homelessness and hunger. Others are worse off than me, I know, and everyone is struggling. There is nothing special about me. I'm just one person who has almost made it through and I'm asking anyone who can: Please consider helping me raise the $2500 I need before March 24th to reclaim my car, and my life. Thank you, Thank you, from the bottom of my heart”.

If you wish to help Alex, or to contact her, you can do both at
Your kindness may not be tax deductible, but it is deeply appreciated. Thank you.

Kian Frederick can be contacted at

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Keith Brooks comment on Organizing the Unemployed

comment given as part of a Left Forum Panel discussion March 19, 2011

transcribed from Youtube video 3/31/11

"Organizing the unemployed is a multi-dimensional, multi-pronged problem. Manny and I organized the unemployed in New York in the early 90s, and I've organized the unemployed in Baltimore and also in New Jersey.

"I would say that one of the main lessons that I would put forward is that nothing happens unless the unemployed themselves get organized and don't rely on the unions, the other community groups. Things happen when the unemployed themselves go into political action. You know, you organize the unemployed, you need to do everything people here have talked about, from service-type stuff, to support groups, to political action meeting/lobbying...[to] direct action. You know, direct action?

"Uh, John in Philadelphia, I think that a little bit of what gets lost in your presentation is: "How did you get some of those things?" You were at the offices, you were demonstrating, you were creating a social upset.

"People have to be willing to do that. The unions are not going to take the lead. I was in the Steelworkers' union in Baltimore in the early 80s, we were laid off. We had to fight to get our own union to actually set up a food bank, even the service stuff, and then to get steelworker unions to support actual political advocacy was another battle itself. So to me, the main lesson in terms of organizing, is that unless the unemployed themselves - union and non-union - are mobilized to be visible, to be public, to be in the face of these agencies and institutions, that the rest isn't gonna happen.

"But it also means stepping on a lot of toes. And it means that the Democrats are sometimes the toes you're going to have to step on. The Republicans are an easy target, but if you pull your punches on it, you're not going to wind up getting what's needed.

"Obviously, the problem of unemployment is a major colossal problem in a capitalist society, but at the same time you can win real gains. We did. In Philadelphia they did. Elsewhere. So the main thing about the unions is: nobody should assume or expect that the unions will take the lead, take the initiative. It will always be in response to the activity of the unemployed."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Organizing the Unemployed - VIDEO

Video of a Left Forum Panel on "Organizing the Unemployed" presented Feb. 11, 2011.

Chair: Emmanuel Ness
Panelists: Joe Stanick, unemployed activist
LaToya Egwuekwe, IAM/U-Cubed
John Dodds, Philadelphia Unemployment Project
Sam Talbot, Flashmobs4jobs

INTRO - Emmanuel Ness

PART 1 - Joe Stanick


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Depression Hits Robinson Crusoe's Island (1932)

From The Industrial Worker - the publication of the IWW - a fable entitled "Depression Hits Robinson Crusoe's Island" in 1932:
"Friday," said Robinson Crusoe, "I'm sorry, I fear I must lay you off. "
"What do you mean, Master?"
"Why, you know there's a big surplus of last year's crop. I don't need you to plant another this year. I've got enough goatskin coats to last me a lifetime. My house needs no repairs. I can gather turtle eggs myself. There's an overproduction. When I need you I will send for you. You needn't wait around here."
"That's all right, Master, I'll plant my own crop, build up my own hut and gather all the eggs and nuts I want myself. I'll get along fine. "
"Where will you do all this, Friday?"
"Here on this island."
"This island belongs to me, you know. I can't allow you to do that. When you can't pay me anything I need I might as well not own it."
"Then I'll build a canoe and fish in the ocean. You don't own that. "
"That's all right, provided you don't use any of my trees for your canoe, or build it on my land, or use my beach for a landing place, and do your fishing far enough away so you don't interfere with my riparian rights."
"I never thought of that, Master. I can do without a boat, though. I can swim over to that rock and fish there and gather sea-gull eggs."
"No you won't, Friday. The rock is mine. I own riparian rights."
"What shall I do, Master?"
"That's your problem, Friday. You're a free man, and you know about rugged Individualism being maintained here."
"I guess I'll starve, Master. May I stay here until I do? Or shall I swim beyond your riparian rights and drown or starve there?"
"I've thought of something, Friday. I don't like to carry my garbage down to the shore each day. You may stay and do that. Then whatever is left of it, after my dog and cat have fed, you may eat. You're in luck."
"Thank you, Master. That is true charity."
"One more thing, Friday. This island is overpopulated. Fifty percent of the people are unemployed. We are undergoing a severe depression, and there is no way that I can see to end it. No one but a charlatan would say that he could. So keep a lookout and let no one land here to settle. And if any ship comes don't let them land any goods of any kind. You must be protected against foreign labor. Conditions are fundamentally sound, though. And prosperity is just around the corner."

[quoted in Franklin Folsom, Impatient Armies of the Poor]

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Report from New Jersey

originally posted by Norman Markowitz on H-Labor Discussion Network

I've just come back from the AFL-CIO led Solidarity rally for Wisconsin Public Employees in Trenton, New Jersey. There will be I hope significant media coverage of the rally, in which thousands attended in very bad weather(pouring rain at points) to here Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CI0 and trade union leaders from New Jersey and Wisconsin, along with Civil Rights leaders, call for negotiation rather than dictatorial legislation in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, and other states.

There were teachers and fireman, trade unionists representing public employees and private sector employees in the crowd. And there was a labor historian or two who I ran into.

What was important at least to me about the rally was the understanding in the crowd that we are all under the gun through the country--that, as one of the speakers said, Republican Governors were reading from the same script.

In New Jersey, there was particular anger at a Governor who keeps on using the phrase "class warfare," and has his own Monty Python version of the class struggle--there are two classes in New Jersey, he keeps on saying, the privileged overpaid underworked public employees and the hard working tax payers they exploit. But whether the rhetoric from Republican leaders is as smooth as a used car salesman or as Archie Bunkeresque as Christie of New Jersey, everyone understood at the rally that the policy is the same across the country.

Which brings me to a point that wasn't really raised by speakers at the rally but was in the back of the minds of many in the crowd. What is the federal government, meaning the administration, doing to stand with labor, to stand with the voters who elected it in 2008.

Isn't it the responsibility of the Obama administration to say to the people that labor had nothing to do with the deregulation over the last thirty years that sparked the stock market crisis of 2008; that labor opposed the "detaxation" of the same period which concentrated more and more wealth in the hands of the top 5 percent of income earners while the overwhelmingly majority of income earners saw their purchasing power decrease and the personal debt rise.

There were Democratic politicians present at the rally but they didn't speak. Democrats were praised by speakers for walking out of Republican dominated legislatures to block these draconian policies, but shouldn't we expect much more than them and the Obama administration than that.

Perhaps the Obama administraiton might call for the federal government absorbing the budget deficits of those states which ended the cutbacks and began to invest in the people. All of the budget deficits of the states taken together are a fraction of what the administration pumped into the banks, the corporations and wall street. Isn't it time for the administration to begin to provide policies that seriously defend the interests of its core constituencies?

Norman Markowitz

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

99er Letters to Bernie: UPDATE: Letters to Rep Peter Welch

 UPDATE: Thursday, Dec. 16:   
The Letters to Bernie Campaign is growing! 
Congressman Peter Welch wants to hear from 99ers.  
It's not too late - 99ers are still suffering and the Congressman wants your stories ASAP. Please send your story to:  
Alexandra will print each one out and take it to the Congressman's office.  Use the power of 99er numbers to send your stories all to one place, printed out and piled together.  Send your story NOW to  
Watch the CNN coverage of this story here.
 Thank you.

Updated: Sunday, Dec. 12: 
 Please keep sending your letters in!  
Each one will be printed out 
and delivered to the Senator's office. 
Help Senator Sanders Help 99ers.  
Send your 99er story NOW
Watch the CNN story here..

Please, DO IT NOW.

Senator Bernie Sanders (Indp.VT), is one of the few who have consistently stood up for 99ers, the unemployed and regular Americans against the corporations, big banks and stone-walling politicians.  Help Senator Sanders Help 99ers.  Send in your 99er story and why we need a Tier V or more weeks included in the UI legislation currently being negotiated on Capital Hill.  Even if you are not a 99er, but know and care for someone who is, we want to hear from you.  Many Senators and Representatives are very angry that a deal has been made to extend tax cuts for the rich, while current and future 99ers are being thrown under the bus.  Give them the back up they need to fight for us.  Email your story to: .

Many, many 99ers, unemployed still receiving UI and our supporters spent the last year, and longer, faxing and emailing letters to our elected representatives.  NOW is an opportunity to put all  our letters together as one STRONG statement that Senator Sanders and all the other Senators that support us can use to show that we are suffering and MUST be included.  If you have one of your letters still on your computer, you are only a few clicks away from doing your part.  Send it to

99er Alexandra J. will print them out and take the letters to the Senator's office, with whom she is working.  CNN went to Vermont to cover Alex reading a few of the letters and taking the stack of printed letters to his office.  The Senator is, of course, in DC, but he is aware and very supportive of this campaign.  DO NOT DELAY!  We are off to a GREAT start, but we need many more personal stories  if our plight is to be heard. There IS HOPE.  Please do your part for yourself and all 99ers:  Thank you.

Monday, December 13, 2010

UPDATED BELOW 99ers: National Candlelight Vigil: Monday, Dec. 20


City Hall
Bring your own candle.  CNN, RTV, PRI to cover event.
R to City Hall,
4,5,6 to Bklyn Bridge/City Hall,
2,3 to Park Pl, 
A,C,E to Chambers, J,Z to Chambers

RSVP for your local event here.
Download National Flyer at this link

From Rhonda T:

Many people are suffering in America this Holiday Season, especially the 99ers.  It is time for all of us to come together and help the 99ers and each other.  It is also time for 99ers to step out and help ourselves.  Beyond politics, anger or blame, many Americans need to know they are not forgotten.  99ers, the unemployed, underemployed, small and family businesses, those working paycheck to paycheck: the middle class is being forced into poverty by our own government.  Please join in this peaceful moment at your City Hall next Monday, December 20, from 6 - 7 pm (local time), for a candlelight vigil for the suffering, the forgotten, the middle class, and for HOPE.  Bring your candle.  The politicians don't respect us, so let's take a moment to respect each other.

Please join with us. RSVP  today and connect with 99ers and supporters in your area.  For other questions, please email:

Thank you,
99er, Rhode Island

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Forum Full: Wait List Only: Special Invitation: NYC area 99ers meet with DOL Monday, 12/13, 75 Varick St. 1-3pm

Updated: Sat.12/11 @ 5:00pm: 

Forum Full: Wait List Only

You are welcome to sign up for the waiting list.  

Please be reachable before 11 am on Monday 12/13.  

Wait List closes 9 pm Sun 12/12.

A Special Invitation from Flashmobs4jobs, NY/NJ 99ers, Community Activists and the NYS Dept of Labor. Space is limited. Please RSVP to: 


Please Join 99er Activists and the NYS DOL 

for a special 99ers

Focus Group and Strategy Session:

Help With Your Job Search 

Improve the Workforce Centers


As the New Year looms and the fate of the 99ers remains uncertain in Washington, the NY State Department of Labor (DOL), and NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS),  are reaching out to NYC area 99ers and the long term unemployed.  Coordinated directly through the office of Colleen Garner, the Commissioner of Labor for NY State, the DOL wants to hear from US about ways they can better assist 99ers, the long-term unemployed, skilled and professional workers in our job search.  


Improvement of the Workforce Centers will be our main focus.  Many of us have used the centers; they are the direct avenue for delivery of services.    This is a rare opportunity to get the immediate help you may need and contribute, as a client, to changes the DOL may implement that focus more directly on our needs.  Issues such as realistic skills assessment, emerging industries, specifics of training opportunities and access to these programs will be discussed, in addition to new ideas.

Meet with high level NYS DOL  and SBS representatives; tell them your experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly!  Bring your concerns and suggestions. Your questions will be answered. Share your ideas for improvement, learn about new services/updated programs and help develop programs that focus on 99ers, skilled and professional workers.  

Please join us: 

Monday, Dec 13, 1-3 pm

NYS Dept. of Labor 

One Hudson Plaza

75 Varick St, NYC

Conference Rm G, 7th Floor 

Any train to Canal St: A,C,E,1,R,N,Q. 


Space is limited.

To reserve your seat at the table, you must:

RSVP to Thanks!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Join Us Nov 30 @ Rockefeller Center

Keep the Lights On for the Unemployed
Demonstration at the Rockefeller Tree Lighting
5:00 pm November 30th at 5th Avenue below 50th St
Trains: B,D,F to Rockefeller Center, E to 5th Ave, Grand Central Station
Join us in Upholding the True Spirit of the Holidays!
This holiday season is going to be a wretched one for millions of Americans who can’t find work. There are an estimated 17 million unemployed, about 8 million of whom are collecting Unemployment Insurance (UI), and 5 million “99ers” – workers without UI benefits because they have already collected all the weeks available in their state – 99 weeks is the most any state provides. Each UI check means a family who can keep the lights on this holiday season, and maybe enjoy a simple celebration. But come November 30th, the number of 99ers will begin to rise dramatically – if Congress does nothing, 2 million more households will see their benefits cut off by the end of the year.
This means 7 million workers – who lost their jobs through no fault of their own – will be left with no income or solid job prospects.
We live in a rich country - where billionaires clink champagne glasses to toast their profits – and yet millions of jobless workers do not know if they will be able to afford a Holiday meal. With this demonstration, we are not trying to dampen the joy of the Christmas Tree lighting for the families who still have a little cheer to share with their children. We hope to act as a reminder that the true spirit of the Holiday is to remember the least among us.
Flyer for the event:

99er "Breadline" Demo coverage

Naomi Cohn- New York Public Policy Examiner

Edward Nelson- NY Public Policy Examiner

The demonstration on Saturday was great! But we face a difficult struggle to get UI benefits extended for 99ers. We can do it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Interviews at the Breadline

This is sort of "backwards," posting the interviews before the main video, but I want to get these up for press to use quotes from.

This is "activist video," meaning: bad sound, jiggling camera, etc. so bear with me! :)

Ucubed Letter

A new letter dropped into my inbox from Ucubed. We share it here for informational purposes, not as an endorsement of the contents.

Passionate, Persuasive and Powerful

Dear UCubed Leaders and Jobs Activists:

Tensions are rising. On the UCubed Facebook page, the anger and desperation of America’s jobless is clearly evident.

Last week, nearly six hundred jobs activists commented on UCubed Facebook updates. Some comments were white hot. Some sought clarity. Some asked for help. And some “liked” it enough to let their friends know.

Unfortunately, one update turned into a circular firing squad. The unemployed and the 99ers began taking potshots at each other. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it got downright ugly. And we had to delete the ad hominem attacks.
Continued after the jump...

Congress' letter to the EEOC on discrimination against the Unemployed

Good news: a large number of Congressional signatures (57) on a letter to the EEOC on discrimination against the unemployed in hiring.

Bad news: They don't mention age discrimination at all!!! Also, discrimination against the disabled should probably be part of this discussion as well.


The full text of the letter after the jump...

Thanksgiving 2010: No Feast for the Unemployed

Pictures from the Nov 20 "Breadline" demonstration in front of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

 more after the jump...

99ers: Hands Across America

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Flyer: "Who are the 99ers?"

Who Are the 99ers

Flashmobs4Jobs at the Witness for Living Wage demonstration

Flashmobs4jobs was part of the Witness for Living Wage demonstration (that's one of our members, Sam, on the right of the above picture)! Hundreds of New Yorkers, including nearly 100 clergy members from all across the city, delivered thousands of prayer postcards asking the City Council to pass the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, which would require all companies which receive tax breaks from the City to pay $10/hr plus benefits or $11.50/hr without benefits.

Labor Press New York coverage (incl. photo)