September 5th, 2004


Unemployment Line during RNC

The Nation (
Does a Pink Slip Make You a Girlie Man?
09/02/2004 @ 7:02pm

The 8 million jobless Americans have been invisible this week at the Republican National Convention, since it seems only girlie men would dwell on such an unpleasant subject. But a little after 8 am on Wednesday, they appeared out of nowhere along Broadway, in an "unemployment line" organized by the AFL-CIO and People for the American Way that stretched for three miles from Wall Street up to 34th Street. Five thousand people registered online to participate in the action--organized entirely electronically--and received their block assignments by e-mail the day before. At the appointed time, they suddenly congregated and stepped into a single-file line, facing north, their pink slips held aloft. From my vantage point at Duane and Broadway, just north of City Hall, it was pink as far as the eye could see.

Behind me stood Yvons Carriotte, 35, a former Sheridan Hotel bell captain laid off after 9/11, who has been surviving since on part-time work, driving a school bus four hours a day in eastern Pennsylvania. A Haitian immigrant and father of a 5-year-old son, Carriotte's been without pay all summer while school's out, but since he technically has a job, he was turned down for unemployment benefits. A block and a half north stood Kelie Bowman, 25, a print photo technician who's been laid off from two jobs in the past year and a half. She, too, is eking out an existence without unemployment benefits, because her last boss successfully challenged her claim. Nearby stood a reporter whose wife is unemployed and a film production assistant who's been "between jobs" for months. At 8:31 am, the block captains said thanks, and the line evaporated as mysteriously as it had appeared.
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This morning, the Labor Department quietly released data showing that new unemployment claims rose by 19,000 last week, a number Bush will likely be far too manly to mention when he takes the stage tonight.

Esther Kaplan