Below is the speech delivered here at the SUNY Old Westbury College Campus, on Wednesday, February 20th, by New York's Senator Charles Schumer, with regards to the African-American male joblessness crisis.
Please read this speech, and afterwards respond to the following questions:
1. According to Senator Schumer, 72% of black males who dropped out of college, were jobless by the year 2004 vs. the amount of white male dropouts at 34%.
In your opinion why do you believe that this ratio exists? Include excerpts of the speech, and you are encouraged to conduct some investigations on your own using any available resources.
2. Senator Schumer informs us of the non-for profit organization STRIVE, it's past, present and future. In your opinion, if this organization was duplicated and nationwide, do you believe it would be successful in it's mission to improve job stability amongst the black male population, and why?
3. Senator Schumer states that '... failing schools, dysfunctional families, high incarceration rates, overt and subtle racism...', assisted in leading us to a decline of young black men as a part of the labor force between 1992-1999. In your opinion do you feel these reasons are still applicable today, and why? In addition, what would you do as leaders to encourage growth, and change regarding this issue?
Your responses should be well rounded, and think critically.
Good luck and thank you.
SCHUMER ANNOUNCES NEW APPROACH TO AFRICAN
AMERICAN MALE JOBLESSNESS ON LONG ISLAND
AND ACROSS THE NATION - JOBS KEY TO REDUCING
POVERTY AND SUSTAINING FAMILIES
Schumer Unveils Novel Plan to Old Problem — Focus on National Job Training Efforts, Implement Proven Tax Credits to Bring Young Black Men into the
With Innovative New Jobs Programs Now Finally Working, Critical Funding Inexplicably Slashed; Spending 10% of What We Did Nearly 30 Years Ago
Schumer will Deliver Address to LI African-American Leaders: Jobs Key to Reducing Poverty and Boosting Families and Communities
Joined by leaders in the African-American community on Long Island, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today addressed elected officials, community leaders and clergy to issue a call to action to end African American joblessness. Schumer said African-American unemployment is a nationwide issue that is particularly prevalent on Long Island where approximately one in every three black men is out of work. Schumer laid out a creative and ramped-up effort to fix the persistent problem:
In America and New York there is a growing crisis of joblessness for African American men. The crisis is profound, persistent and perplexing.
Both across the country and here in Long Island, far too many black men lack an adequate education and face difficulty finding and keeping work. The numbers are staggering and getting worse.
Yet, shocking as these statistics are, some might yawn and ask, "Why another speech about unemployment? Haven't we been there, done that."
Poverty is not new. African American disadvantage is - sadly - not new. So, why now for this speech? Well, I see at least three prime reasons:
First, the problem is severe and it is worsening. With our economy facing troubled waters aneaa me joo market could be especially rough for black men.
Second, due to an impending retirement exodus, there will soon be an unprecedented need to fill unskilled and semi skilled jobs in Nassau and Suffolk County and there is a large supply of jobless black men who could fill them.
Third, after much trial and error, we now have several successful job training programs THAT WORK, as well as federal policy options with a proven track record of making a real difference in the labor force. Yet sadly, while the programs are finally getting results, the federal funding has gone down by 90% since 1980.
Consider this: According to a recent story on this dilemma, "The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the boom of the 1990's. In 2000, 65% of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless - in other words not looking or unable to find work - and by 2004, the share had grown to 72% "jobless." (NY Times, Plight Deepens fir Black Men, 3/20/06)
72% jobless! It takes your breath away. By comparison the rate for white male high school dropouts was 34% and Hispanic males 19%.
And these national trends are manifest right here in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. It is easy to get lost in statistics, but these are important to focus on. The numbers are better on Long Island, but still need our attention and improvement
• In Nassau County, the unemployment for white men ages 16-64 is 4.2%, for black men it is nearlydouble at 8.2%.
• In Suffolk County, only 67% of all black men ages 16-64 are employed, while the number for whitesand latinos is significantly higher.
. Think about that for a second. Can you imagine a healthy, functioning community that had 1 out of
every 3 men out of work for any length of time as in Long Island? Or 3 out of 4 no-graduates out of work as it is
in America? It sounds a lot more like a description of the job scene in Belfast or Beirut than it does here.
And it does not take a fertile imagination to conjure up a host of negative scenarios for any society that left this problem to fester.
• Crime. Alienation. Intolerance. Violence. These are all predictable results. And Too many in ourcommunities on Long Island have suffered first hand from these byproducts of the crisis.
And let me be clear, the problem affects us all. It doesn't matter whether you live in Wyandanch or Islip - when one part of Nassau or Suffolk County faces a challenge, we all face that challenge.
One reason this crisis is perplexing is because it is playing out against a backdrop of unprecedented historical advances for many sectors of our nation's African American population.
Obviously we know the stories of successful individuals - Garden City's own Ken Chenault, Richard Parsons, Oprah Winfrey, Condi Rice and countless others. But more importantly there is a burgeoning black middle class. Communities here on Long Island, like Amityville, Baldwin and Freeport have made significant advances in the last generation. Black higher education rates have grown at a steady pace. And lower income women
have made impressive gains in terms of work force participation in just me lasi tew years.
So, we can lull ourselves into thinking things are alright. But then we come back to the recent analyses and we see how mistaken that belief is when it comes to black males with less than a college education.
Between 1992 and 1999 - the greatest economic expansion in our nation's history - the labor force participation of young black men actually declined from 83.5% to 79.4%. Clearly, the rising tide did not lift all boats.
There is a complex interplay offerees that led us to this point. Many of them are familiar culprits: failing schools, dysfunctional families, high incarceration rates, overt and subtle racism, and the decimation of manufacturing jobs that typically afforded opportunities to men.
All these political, cultural, economic and personal elements combine to erect a steeplechase of barriers that is far too difficult to traverse for far too many black men.
And while this is a sensitive subject, there is also a subculture of the street that provides easy money and allows some to eschew personal responsibility. But we can't sit passively by and let that subculture claim another generation of men. The public sector - on all levels - has an obligation to intercede. The Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood, a pastor and friend of mine said it best: "Government has a moral responsibility to compete against, and win against, subcultures that are immoral, illegal and really inhuman."
One goal I have today is to shine a firm spotlight on a problem that - to my thinking - has received insufficient attention, inadequate resources, intermittent focus and poor coordination. And, to offer some solid, practical steps forward.
Let me be clear: there is a host of dedicated, even heroic individuals who have been addressing these issues every day for years. Not only am I standing here next to courageous and committed leaders like Dr. Calvin Butts and Theresa Sanders, but this audience is filled with religious, community and political leaders who know how to turn ideas into solutions.
For the last year I have worked hard on developing a federal response to this crisis and I am excited to share some of these ideas with you today. I have drafted legislation and I will be introducing it in the weeks ahead. Yet to this point, at the Federal level, there has been no comprehensive public policy response to this situation. We have allowed the problems of black men to grow worse unabated.
So where do we begin? Let's start with some rays of hope.
I believe there is a rare confluence of forces that should be exploited - now - to ramp up efforts to aggressively attack the plight of jobless black men.
Specifically, I speak of three unique opportunities we now have. First, there is inherent opportunity in the changing demographics of the job market. Second, there is an opportunity to implement new, innovative and successful job training efforts. And third, there is an opportunity to use tools like the earned income tax credit to draw many more African American men into the labor force.
The Workforce in Transition
Let me begin by explaining some interesting trends in the labor market that could make it a real possibility to connect many of today's jobless with good paying jobs in the near future. Here is a fact that will surprise you:
the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that around 75% of projected new jobs in the next ten years win not necessarily require a college degree. In the information age this is counter intuitive.
The American labor force is in transition and therein lies the opportunity. By 2010 as many as 64 million Americans from the generations born before and after World War II will approach retirement age. Over this period we will be losing 20% of our entire workforce - a turnover rate the likes of which our country has never experienced. There will be huge opportunities for workers from all backgrounds.
Many of the new jobs I am speaking about don't require college degrees. Many are entry level, but they can also pay upwards of $40,000 with benefits and get an individual started on a promising career ladder. The best part is, they can't be outsourced or downsized—because they're crucial to keeping our neighborhoods working. A nurse, welder, mechanic or long-haul commercial driver doesn't do us any good if he or she is working in Bangalore. With a strong service and construction sector, these jobs will start becoming available on Long Island in the years ahead. We've never before had such a clear picture of where the jobs will be—or what we have to do to connect our struggling young people to them.
What we need to do now is ensure that black men have access to the best, most successful job training programs that can prepare them for these careers. After years of trying, I believe there is a new paradigm for job training that will make this possible.
The STRIVE Approach
In the last twenty years a number of innovative job training programs have demonstrated that it is possible to move large numbers of hard to reach men and women into good paying jobs and onto career tracks.
There are scores of them on Long Island that do excellent work each and every day. For example, the Urban League of Long Island has a spate of job training programs that have propelled thousands of men and woman from all backgrounds into good paying jobs. They know it can't be a one-size fits all model - that's why they go into the schools to work with at risk youth and also provide specialized training for older workers looking to re-enter the labor market.
I'd like to talk to you today about one job training program that was founded in East Harlem and has been replicated successfully throughout the United States and Europe: it is called STRIVE. It offers some good clues on what makes a job program work.
Founded in 1985, here is the most important thing you need to know about STRIVE: 70% of their graduates retain their jobs after 2 years, compared to the 40% average of most programs. I visited them to see first hand how they do it. It impressed me so much I brought 3 Senators - two Democrats and a Republican — to visit STRIVE's offices in Washington D.C. They left in awe.
First, STRIVE'S core program does not begin with teaching participants how to read an account ledger or hammer in a nail. It begins with what they call "soft skills" like how to dress for work, interact with your boss and superiors, and accept criticism. Seems obvious enough, but for many it is harder than it should be to tell the difference between constructive criticism and a provocative "dis" that, in the code of the street, demands an aggressive reaction.
For one month, everyday from 9 to 5, participants attend an attitudinal workshop that simulates the rigors of the workplace. A collared shirt and tie are the dress code, no exceptions. Being late more than once is grounds for having to start the program from the beginning.
The founder of STRIVE, Rob Carmona has said something that really strikes me: "Finding a job is easy; keeping it is hard." Rob's a good friend and what he is saying is that there are major-league attitudinal and cultural barriers to success here. The labor market alone won't solve this problem. Even in a hot economy with ample jobs, it is unrealistic to put many of the young, undereducated men directly into an office, store or construction site and be confident that they would succeed.
The second element of STRIVE's success is intensive follow-up. After a graduate is placed in the most appropriate job for his or her skills, STRIVE does not let them fly on their own. For two full years they offer individual follow-up and supportive services. If someone is having a rough time of it at work or even a family problem, STRIVE is there as a support network to keep them on track.
The third pillar of STRIVE's success is offering additional training opportunities to help young men makes careers out of jobs. Working in Foot Locker or another store in the mall for $8 or $9 an hour is a good start. But after someone has done this successfully for a year he should be brought back into the system to receive additional training. STRIVE's CareerPath programs partner with employers and community colleges to offer 10 to 24 week intensive training modules that continue soft skills development while teaching participants new technical skills.
The sociologist Alford Young has studied the importance of making these career paths open to young black men. He has found that those who perceive $7 or $8 jobs as their wage ceiling prefer not to work. But those who believe that the entry level job can become a $12 an hour job and more, are willing to invest the time needed to make that happen. He writes that young black men "aspire to have careers rather than any form of available work. They express their desires to control their economic destiny.. .Their desired jobs provide emotional satisfaction as much as material rewards."
The fourth pillar of STRIVE is that success won't come if you focus only on employment. Young black men face a host of challenges beyond the workplace that can pose serious obstacles to success. By offering comprehensive services that can provide their clients with housing, health care, family counseling and other wrap-around services, some of the stresses that lead to joblessness can be eased.
One of the challenges for many job training programs is convincing new companies to take a chance on their workers. Jobs programs are out there every day struggling to convince employers to partner with them. They shouldn't have to do this alone, out in the wilderness. Here is a place where government can also play a role: we should be doing everything we can to create incentives for employers who are willing to partner with these programs and create a more systemic relationship between young black men and employers.
The success of STRIVE and other programs are all the more unlikely given that federal funding for these efforts has been steadily reduced in recent years. We have essentially walked away from these programs. In 1978 we spent $9.5 billion dollars on jobs programs - $30 billion in today's dollars. In 2006 we spent only $3.5 billion. That's a 90% cut. Considering the potential that these programs have as national models, this is a huge mistake.
It's true that simply throwing money at the programs is a guarantee of failure. As Bob Herbert has written "the historical landscape is littered with the rusted rotting shells of job training programs and full-employment initiatives that never succeeded."
To make sure we don't travel willy-nilly down the same path we must invest in proven models like STRIVE, we must track progress and we must make adjustments to improve programs as the facts flow in.
Unfortunately, our current federal program - the Workforce Investment Act - WIA - does not mandate or even encourage the STRIVE model. The WIA program hasn't been reauthorized since it expired in 2003 and it
needs to be updated to incorporate a more rigorous training regimen.
WIA funding should not simply go to programs that help clients write resumes and gives a couple of job leads. We must demand results. Programs should focus on "soft skills" in addition to hard skills. And they should have to track and stay with their participants for 2 years, 4 times as long as the 6 months WIA currently mandates. They must be comprehensive - offering all the social services that will keep our young men working. This will be the most effective way of guaranteeing job retention and career paths for these workers.
If we can duplicate some semblance of STRIVE's 70% success rates - which they have duplicated in 22 locations around the country - we can begin to really move the employment needle in the right direction.
To summarize for a moment: we know the jobs are out there for young black men, we know there are training programs that work, so what's the missing link? The missing link is ensuring that work pays well enough to help lure - and keep - young men in the workforce.
I'd like to talk for a moment on how tax policy, namely the Earned Income Tax Credit - known as the E-I-T-C - has been a real help getting new workers into jobs. Now tax policy will never be mistaken for the most exciting topic for a speech, but if you stick with me for a few minutes I'll explain how it is a key to solving this
Currently the EITC helps women more than men. Not because they are woman, but because they have children and are single in higher numbers then men. Of course, helping single working moms is imperative. But let me explain how we can enhance the EITC to get the same results for men as we did for many single mothers.
Given the limited earnings potential for many young African Americans males, there can be a lot of bottom line reasons not to work in the formal economy. Working a tough job in a warehouse for $7 an hour would put less than $300 a week and around $13,000 a year in your pocket. In 2008, those wages don't go too far.
If you owe back child support - which automatically garnishes your wages - that could take a big chunk out of every paycheck. With limited skills and low wages, many young men take jobs off the books, or worse. We need to make work pay for African American men.
We know this strategy works because the sizable credit the EITC gives to low-income families and single parents has helped low income women enter the workforce in droves. Researchers estimate that combined with other incentives the EITC expansion in the 1990's helped 500,000 women start working in that decade alone. And for young black woman the labor force participation rate jumped from 64.2% to 78.8%. Now that's success.
Here's how it works: when a single woman with two children leaves welfare and gets a job for $7 per hour, she takes home $13,000 per year. But the EITC gives her a credit of $4400 and with food stamps her total earnings will be around $19,000 a year. All of a sudden, the hard work, sacrifice and a commitment to holding a job begins to pay off. The $7 an hour job is paying like a $10 an hour job.
But a young single man or a father not living with his kids, who works that same $7 and hour job for a year, receives little or nothing from the EITC.
Here is how we change mat:
First, we should double the maximum credit that childless workers can receive from $438 up to $875 by accelerating the rate at which the credit is phased in and broadening the income limits so that a greater number of people can get the maximum credit. Effectively, this works like a reduction in your tax rate, and you will be able to receive some credit up until your income reaches $22,880.
For someone without kids or a family to support, the extra money you would get from this program would make a real difference.
Second, we should lower the minimum age that childless workers can receive the EITC from 25 to 21. Right now, when a young man gets out of high school or a job training program this tax credit often won't help because he's too young. If we don't help these young men until they turn 25, we lose the opportunity to make work pay for a huge sector of the population. We need to change that.
The third thing we should do is extend the EITC to those low-wage earners who have kids and are current on their child support payments. There are lots of men out there who really want to work and do right by their families. It can be an uphill battle for them, but many find a way to make it happen.
New York State is actually a leader supporting these fathers. Two years ago they enacted a State EITC that will give working fathers up to $1000 if they are current on their support orders. Budget analysts estimate that it will act as an incentive for around 5,000 men start working and pay their child support. That's smart policy.
Considering that about a third of low-income non custodial fathers nationwide are black, a federal EITC expansion could have a big impact for them. Here is how we do it. If you are dad paying your child support, we should raise the existing tax credit from $438 to $1719 a year. When word gets out to dads that the $7 an hour job could put hard dollars into your pocket at the end of the year if you are up on your child support, I believe many will answer the call and start looking for jobs
Let me be clear: these programs are not just about getting men working, they are about strengthening families. Studies have documented a direct correlation between fathers who pay child support and their involvement in their children's lives. If we can get men working and they become a positive force in the lives of their sons and daughters, we will have achieved two very worthy objectives.
Conclusion: Raising the Level of Discourse
In the weeks ahead I will be introducing legislation that will help create job training programs that focus on the STRIVE model. I will also be proposing an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit that should do for
young black men what it has done for women.
But it can't be just me and everyone in this room. In 2008 when we elect our next president, candidates from both parties should be prepared to discus the issues of African American unemployment candidly and offer real and viable solutions. Unfortunately, to date, this topic has largely ignored, except in relatively small and dedicated circles. It cannot be any longer.
As a whole, the problem on Long Island is not as dire as some parts of the country. Yet given the overall severity of the African American jobless problem and the unprecedented opportunity that will result from the mass retirement of workers from the post war generation, shame on us if we do not figure out how to take action to put people who want to work into jobs that pay.
Ihe most important pieces are in place to make real progress on what has sadly become an endemic problem. Il is up to us to align these tools and make them work. We must. Not only must it be a moral imperative that we give more opportunity to African American men, it must be a national imperative to keep our country Competitive in the 21st Century.