Michiana works together in economic crisis

St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties have seen significant layoffs and plant closings in the R.V. industry, General Motors and Whirlpool. Now, Michiana workers are proposing a bill which would help currently unemployed workers and prevent more layoffs in the future.

Last Friday, Michiana residents attended a press conference given by St. Joseph Valley Project/Jobs with Justice along with Elkhart County Works Together to discuss the current job situation.

The press conference was held to address the issue of Michiana residents who want a job bill that protects St. Joseph and Elkhart County workers.

The three organizations wanted to provide information about what is being done locally and nationally to address the current unemployment crisis.

“Over 11 million jobs have been lost according to the Economic Policy Institute,” said Joe Carbone of the St. Joseph Valley Project/ Jobs with Justice. “We need a job program and to move the economy forward in different ways.”

Elkhart County Works Together is organizing a support network to get unemployed workers to use their skills in the community. The St. Joseph Valley Project/ Jobs with Justice is trying to get local labor unions to support a national job bill that will hopefully reduce layoffs, provide stable new jobs and provide better support for displaced workers.

“Now we’re working on region-wide strengthening between Goshen, Elkhart and South Bend,” said Jackie Smith of the St. Joseph Valley Project/ Jobs with Justice.

The two organizations are currently working on projects to help unemployed workers in Michiana supplement their income.

“One project we’re working on is the Michiana Community Currency,” said Smith.  “The goal is to print our own money in Michiana. This helps to reinforce the local economy that the dollar can’t.”

Michiana would use this printed money between customers and local merchants who agree to be a part of the project. The money would be used in exchange for goods and services just like the dollar, however, this money would only be used in the local community.

“Community Currency fills the gaps that the dollar leaves,” said Smith.

Currency programs such as this have been started in Detroit, New York, North Carolina and Massachusetts.

“We also have people working on community gardening projects and peace and social justice activism projects going on,” said Smith.

St. Joseph Valley Project/ Jobs with Justice is working to bring tens of thousands of workers to Detroit on June 2 as a national effort for the United States Social Forum. The Social Forum is a national movement based on the idea that “another world is possible, and another United States is necessary.”

“We’re all fired up about the Social Forum,” said Smith. “We’re trying to get 250 residents together to go.”

The United States Social Forum is expected to have 20 to 30 thousand participants from all over the nation and will be discussing items such as building national networks, full work participation of undocumented workers and the current economic crisis.

Written by Brett Bridges

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