On the streets of Ward 8 in the District about one in five adults are out of work. Some of these unemployed workers lack substantive job skills or are recently released from prison. Many others are veteran laborers with extensive work histories. They are electricians, carpenters, plumbers and brick masons and are accustomed to long hours and back-breaking work. And they want their jobs back. Below is one of four skilled laborers east of the Anacostia River who talked to us about how they have been affected by the poor economy.
Anthony Wayne Bennaugh, 51
I’ve been working ever since I was 11, but I’ve been doing construction ever since I was 18. I was doing construction on the Metro tunnels back in the 1980s. On the yellow line. I’ve been working different construction jobs. I’ve been framing manholes, running pipes for electrical wires. I’ve run jackhammers, put pavement on the streets. I pour concrete. I do brick labor.
What I explain is: give me a chance. Let me on the job. I’ve done the work. I’ll even sweep. But I have my skills - all you have to do is give me the opportunity. I’m tired of these small jobs.
My last job, I had to go all the way to Beltsville. My brother said, “If you want to work come to Beltsville.”I didn’t want to go up there, so he was like, “Man, it’s up to you.”
You wouldn’t believe the things I did to stay in D.C. I went to McDonalds, Burger King. But finally my brother said, ‘Come on up I got a spot for you.’ So I went up there and got settled and gave [the supervisor] my résumé and he says ‘Oh your brother works here...I’m going to give you a chance’.
He said y’all going to be doing maintenance work, field work on the golf course and everything. Then he asked me, do you run any of the equipment we have here. I said, “Shoot, I run everything in that closet there. All the lawn mowers and chain saws and everything.” He said, “you can do all of that?”
Even my brother told him, yes he can do all of that. So he hired me and I’m working there for a year and everything is going real good. And the next thing you know another company came in and took over. That was it. And I’m now I’m back on unemployment, back in D.C. Looking for a job. Again.