The ’80s were a tough time for Tom Lewandowski, who spent nine years scrambling for work while laid off from his manufacturing job.
Even so, Lewandowski, now president of the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, didn’t want to assume he understood workers’ feelings when the recession hit in 2008.
So he helped launch the Unemployed and Anxiously Employed Workers’ Initiative, which annually surveys people who are struggling.
For us to represent the truth, we need to hear the truth, he said.
Results from the most recent surveys – and recommendations based on the feedback – will be presented to the public at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Cinema Center Downtown.
Gayle Goodrich, who is pursuing a master’s degree in sociology at IPFW, has played a key role in the surveys and will lead the presentation.
As part of her coursework, she did 20 in-depth interviews with some of the 372 people who completed the five-page survey. She limited the pool to people who had been out of work for six months or more. The confidential sessions lasted from 20 to 90 minutes each.
Goodrich, an engineer who expects to lose her job with Navistar International Corp. in August, hopes local elected officials and social service agencies will address issues raised in the study, especially involving unemployment services.
Based on interview responses, she’d like officials to increase the amount people drawing unemployment are allowed to earn in addition to receiving benefits. This would encourage them to take part-time jobs and get experience that could lead to new careers.
Other suggestions include allowing people to continue drawing unemployment benefits while trying to launch a small business and making sure training agencies direct people toward fields with a strong demand, increasing the odds they’ll find jobs after getting training.
Goodrich’s ideas about the long-term unemployed changed during the project. Participants whose education ended with a high school diploma believe they struggle because they need more education.
But three of those she interviewed had master’s degrees. And a fourth had a doctorate. Those job seekers often omit the degrees from applications for fear they’d be considered overqualified.