ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — Members of the Unemployed Workers Assembly marched from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to the Department of Labor on July 21, 2021. They also held what they called a ‘Not-So-Happy Birthday Party’ for Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “We are asking that the governor and Mark Butler, on this day of his birth, open the Department of Labor, reinstate the pandemic supplemental benefits to our workers,” said Sandra Williams, the executive director of the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council.
The Unemployed Workers Assembly includes the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council, the New Georgia Project’s Georgia Raise Campaign, the Georgia Unemployment and Labor Issues Facebook Community, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Atlanta.READ MORE: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Received Funding For A High Visibility Enforcement Initiative
Pandemic unemployment checks ended on June 26 for several hundred thousand unemployed workers. Labor advocates say Butler and Governor Brian Kemp have not provided feasible solutions. In a press release, the Unemployed Workers Assembly also blamed the U.S. and Georgia Chambers of Commerce:
Spurred by the US Chamber of Commerce’ false narrative that the $300 of federal pandemic unemployment assistance is keeping workers at home, causing a labor shortage, Georgia’s Chamber of Commerce urged Governor Kemp and Commissioner Butler to opt-out of the federal program. The GA Chamber of Commerce’ PAC tends to support elected officials who align with their pro-business values at the expense of workers. COVID unemployed workers refute this false narrative which has vilified them as they struggle to survive.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce didn’t respond to CW69’s request for comment.
“We are not getting rich off of unemployment. The system doesn’t allow us to,” said Lauren Crace, an unemployed worker. “Those career centers are still closed, 17 months later,” said Nicole Horn, a Democrat candidate running for the labor commissioner seat. “You’re taking about people who are way behind the 8 ball now,” said Sharon Corpening, a representative with Unemployed Action.
Following the march, Butler’s office released this statement to CW69:READ MORE: Polk County School Cafeteria Worker Arrested for Murdering Boyfriend
While the average everyday Georgians have returned to work, these individuals have refused to and have demanded to be paid to not work. A record number of jobs are available on Employ Georgia that pay as much, if not more, than they were being paid on unemployment. It is hypocritical these groups are demanding everyone else return to work, and they don’t have to.
Unemployed workers say too many of those jobs are outdated, don’t pay enough or require experience. “Every last Democrat and every last Republican, when it comes to voting, we will remember,” said Marcellus Rowe, another unemployed worker.
Kemp’s office responded with this statement:
As Georgia returns to normal with hundreds of thousands of jobs available across the state, it is critical for more Georgians to re-enter the workforce. Thanks to Governor Kemp’s efforts to protect both lives and livelihoods throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia’s unemployment rate of 4.0% is the lowest of the ten most populous states and has declined for fourteen straight months.
His office also mentioned these unemployed individuals are still eligible for state unemployment benefits. Labor advocates say it still doesn’t address the issues. “Please raise the wages. Never stop searching for the truth,” said Queen Sheba, a spoken word artist.MORE NEWS: Man Taken Into Custody After Barricading Himself Inside His Home
Williams said the labor council is working to make sure the COVID unemployed workers receive any outstanding pandemic unemployment checks.