Scores with Congress by
Committee, chaired by Chuck Bell (Consumers Union) has a dual
strategy to promote "big" initiatives that may not be politically
realistic in the short run (e.g., the Dellums Living Wage and
Jobs for All Bill) and to pursue modest initiatives that have
some chance of adoption in the present political environment.
An example of the
"modest initiative" is the Coalition's successful effort to secure
Congressional funding for job vacancy surveys that determine the
number of applicants for each available job. Vacancy surveys in
selected areas of the country have consistently shown that there
are many more applicants than available jobs, even where official
unemployment rates are quite low. Presently the U.S. government
does not collect data on job vacancies, and unemployment data
do not tell this story. (For more on vacancy surveys, see Uncommon
Sense 15: "How Many Jobs Are There? The Need for a National
Jobs Vacancy Survey.")
The Legislative Committee
began this project in early 1995 under the leadership of then
Committee Chair Jenifer Urff (World Hunger Year). The Committee
drafted a sample bill to establish a national job vacancy survey
and undertook a small lobbying effort to promote the idea with
key Congressional staffers and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
These efforts laid
the groundwork for a revival of the initiative after enactment
of welfare "reform" in 1996. NJFAC took the position that job
vacancy surveys should be conducted before welfare recipients
are ejected from the rolls, and if jobs are not available, benefits
should either by retained or jobs should be created by the government.
The turning point
came early last spring. Jim Werner (NJFAC Washington representative)
organized a Washington briefing for Progressive Caucus staff members
where NJFAC Vice Chair Sumner Rosen made a presentation that included
a description of the Coalition's job vacancy proposal. Bill Grady,
a staff member of Congressman George Brown (D-CA), was attracted
to the idea; with the support of Congressman Brown, Grady was
the driving force in a campaign to enact the proposal.
The Coalition was
intimately involved in this effort, spearheading a lobbying campaign
on behalf of the initiative that involved many Coalition members.
Our goal of establishing a national job vacancy survey was pared
back, but we succeeded in gaining a commitment of about $600,000
to fund sample job vacancy surveys in different communities around
the country. Interestingly, the commitment finally came, not in
the form of legislation, but in a "recommendation" to the Department
of Labor in the Committee Report that accompanied the Department's
The money will be
made available through Research and Demonstration Block Grants
by the Department of Labor. As the program unfolds, NJFAC intends
to be a watchdog, making certain that surveys are done in areas
where there are many welfare recipients, and publicizing these
results. The Urban Program of the National Ministries United is
joining us in this effort to protect our win. Rev. Janet Parker,
who served as NJFAC coordinator last summer, will be the liaison
between NJFAC and the National Ministries United. She will work
with Rev. Charles Rawlings, NJFAC Advisory Board member.
The Jobs Survey "win"
shows that the Coalition could achieve a modest legislative success,
even in these times.