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.
Tyrone Jackson, 53
By trade I’m an electrician. I’ve always wanted to be one. Yup. And I can’t get a job in D.C.
Sometimes, I just go down to the work sites and check out these people who are working. I see 20 or 30 electricians coming out and none of them look like me. It’s been terrible, as far as this working relationship goes with Washington, D.C.
All I see is cranes in this city: They’ve got cranes on 7th street. They’ve got cranes all up and down on 14th street. All these cranes in this city and I ain’t working.
I started in 1983. I’m 53 years old and I don’t have a pension. Nothing. It’s been terrible. It really has. Even my own union can’t help find me work. They tell me there’s nothing we can do. I never thought it would be like this. I never did. It’s always excuse after excuse after excuse.
And here, they’re telling us we don’t wanna work. I’m telling you that’s garbage. Come on man, something’s gotta give. I need money. I’m just holding my head up, praying every day. Keeping everything in the Lord’s hands, not complaining.
I am getting a few opportunities here or there, but they all seem to be outside the city. When I went down to New Holland, I paid for it out of my pocket. I hardly didn’t have any money. I took the Greyhound bus to get up there. I’d take the bus to Wilmington, DE and stay up at my cousin’s and then he’d take me to New Holland.
I’ve even had to go to Spotsylvania County to work. I paid a guy $20 a day to take me down there. Back and forth everyday. I’d pay him $20 to take me down there and then I’d catch a ride back with whoever is going this way.
Man, I know plumbers out of work, electricians like me, skilled labors...Man I know so many people out of work it’s ridiculous. You could build a house with a foundation with the types of people I know who have skills out here and can’t find jobs.
Some of them had to convert over and do anything just so they could support their families. Skilled plumbers, skilled electricians, skilled carpenters working in warehouses and stuff, parking cars. Because people thinking we aren’t nothing and that’s a lie.