Where Do We Go From Here?

Commentary By Pete Domanovic

These are a series of three columns written over the last month by Pete Domanovic.  We welcome your feedback on these topics around homelessness and employment.


            It’s now apparent that there is a recession going on.  Shelters are filling way above capacity and having to turn people away on a daily basis.  You can drive or walk down any main street in the city of Cleveland, and you will see nothing but empty space.  Storefronts and apartment space just goes on for miles, without any type plan or upkeep.

            Even during this recession, there are thousands of people working for temporary labor agencies just in the downtown.  My experience is that out of thousands about 80% are either homeless or about to become homeless as the economy and jobs decrease.  What is really strange about this situation is that new people are coming to Cleveland:  Russian, Polish, Asian, Hindu, and Muslin and are not having any trouble being placed into jobs.  I believe that these jobs should be going to Clevelanders already here who are struggling.  Are the Clevelanders who have been here being chewed up and discarded not that there are replacement workers here?

            Businesses often complained about having to replace people who didn’t work out.

These people were theoretically sent back for retaining, (residing in shelters, and taking classes in training schools).  The problem was that the trainers couldn’t train.  Shelter staff is so wrapped up in their own problems and prejudices; there is nothing that they can accomplish.  What we have then is training that leads nowhere fast.  Training schools have condensed training times from one year to six - week courses.  Training staff in my experience is usually people who couldn’t make it in the business side of that trade, but can teach the theories.

            Replace the trainers.  That is the only thing that will work if you look at the situation from a business point of view.

            From the shelter side of the equation, it seems here in Cleveland people with degrees in social work got a secure and cushy job and the people who serve be damned.

            Not only have they left the working poor with nowhere to go, they are backing them into a corner. Where do we go from here?

 DOMESTIC TERRORISM:  Stripping Away Civil Liberties

             Now that we must fight terrorism, our rights must be curtailed, at least according to our President, George W. Bush.  What about the rights we lost during the Reagan years?  Our great President at that time decided that because 40% of the mentally ill preferred to live on the street, they had that right.  Duh, what does mentally ill mean to you?  Our great president also decided that beer, wine, and cigarette industries no longer need to be regulated, literally allowing the industry to use any legally addictive chemical they chose to use. 

            I thought we had regulations to protect the public from harm.  (Before this deregulation, they could only find that 3 out of 7 people with lung cancer were smokers, that has changes since those cancer causing agents are put in the manufacturing of cigarettes).  The beer and wine industry has it going on, because they can also put any leally addictive compounds into their drinks, hence, a great increase in alcoholism.  Even though their product taste like Kerosene, they have a great market.

            Another of his great accomplishments was to endorse temporary labor agencies.  If you look around you and still see massive buildings housing the state agency that used to send you to companies that were looking to hire someone, they no longer do that.  What they do is not apparent, but they have nothing to do with getting you a job.  Just pay their salaries and shut up.  I’m still waiting for his trickle down theory to catch up to the bottom rung of the ladder.  President G.W. Bush also believes in the trickle down theory with his tax breaks for the richest, but shouldn’t he wait for the first one to work?

            Lets think about what could go on in the next few months with President Bush’s fight on domestic terrorism.  The perfect target in the minds of some is the American Black Muslims.  Not exactly known for being a conforming lot, we have set about to eliminate their basic legal rights.  On the international front, we have made Muslim’s a legal target, but also a military target.  Who can tell what goes on in the mind of a person like G.W. Bush who took the position of the most powerful person in the world by deception?

            Of course, there is the most vulnerable, easiest target, which we call the homeless.  President Reagan already took their legal recourse away when his policies told America that the definition of freedom varies depending on what you can afford to pay for.  Now shoppers look with suspicion on the homeless people lurking.  How could some among us possible claim terrorism by the poorest population?  I thing that it is pretty inconceivable, but so was stealing the American Presidency.  Where do we go from here?


Living Wages/Job Stability

            The first thing you have to ask yourself is; how could anyone be against a living wage for another person that is doing a job that is useful and necessary to the community?  Let’s take for an example Cleveland’s sport arenas.  The sports arenas take in millions of dollars per function and pay out a hefty sum for that function to exist.  When you get to the lowest on the food chain, which are the people cleaning up, what justifies them leaving with approximately $25.00 for the day’s work?  They didn’t ask for school children to clean up, or college students to make some extra cash.  They requested full-grown men who at one time had dreams of family, friends, homes, and cars.

            Here is how it happens.  Someone else negotiated the contract for that employee takes about 40% of what that job is worth.  They you have those particular job overseers.  They started driving the workers harder to get the job done sooner, that in turn reduced the number of hours worked, which in turn reduces the pay, hence the term slave labor.  Now e have people who have nowhere to go for jobs or housing, they can’t take baths, and have to eat at free meal sites.  When they try to better themselves, consider all the other obstacles placed in their way.

            Though I am using the city as an example, there are so many different ways that people are being exploited; public service industrial, food service, all guilty of not caring about the person.  The way the economy is now, the Minuteman’s temporary labor company’s own numbers, there are only six hundred instead of 3000 people-working daily for them.  The daily newspaper’s want ads have been reduced to half page.  Most large stores in the Cleveland area aren’t excepting applications for the Christmas season.

            Please don’t assume that the people you see on the park bench or standing in front of the Terminal Tower is a tramp or a bum.  They’re most likely employees of the places you utilize everyday, or occasionally.  They are people who have been driven down by company’s bottom line for the dollar, not by something that happened overnight.  You could always ask yourself; when will the place I work for decide I’m not needed?  Where do we go from here?

Copyright NEOCH published December 2001 in Cleveland Ohio for Issue 51