For 32 years Janet Edburg worked as a laborer at Northbrook-based Leedal, Inc. helping to manufacture laboratory equipment like stainless steel sinks.
A mother of three, Edburg became a victim of corporate downsizing in 2008, and lacking a high-school diploma she has struggled to find work since then.
“I’ve gone into a very deep depression, even felt suicidal,” Edburg said at a Chicago Jobs with Justice rally on Friday afternoon. “One of my comrades here took me in. I was ready to be off on the streets, homeless. And if it wasn’t for him I would be.”
As one of Illinois’ 647,300 unemployed workers, according to the latest numbers from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Edburg joined a group of about 30 demonstrators who were less than optimistic about the latest decrease in unemployment.
The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics’ monthly employment report released on Friday morning showed that in January the nation’s unemployment rate dropped by 0.2 percent to 8.3 percent.
Since August the country’s unemployment rate has dwindled by less than 1 percent. Meanwhile, as of December, Illinois has the eighth-highest unemployment rate in the country – including Washington D.C. Additionally, Illinois remains above the national average at 9.8 percent, down from 10 percent in November.
This slow decline in the unemployment rate doesn’t sit well with economists like Joe Persky, who spoke at Friday’s rally.
“At this rate, it will take us half a century, over 50 years, to get back to where we were in 2007,” said Persky, professor of Economics at the University of Illinois Chicago and member of the Chicago Political Economy Group, an economic and social justice think tank.
Here's more from the rally:
So, what do Persky and others with Chicago Jobs with Justice see as one possible short-term solution?
In a press release, the group proposed a government jobs program funded by taxing a dollar for every financial trade made in Chicago.
“We can apply a dollar tax on trades in Chicago and generate as much as $6 billion for a jobs program and education funding,” Lourdes Guerrero, an unemployed former Chicago Public Schools teacher, said in the release.
This type of so-called “Robin Hood tax” has been gaining populist support in Europe, according to a recent New York Times article. The idea has even been backed by American financial heavyweights like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Hungarian-born investor George Soros, and former Vice President Al Gore.
After holding a press conference outside of the State of Illinois Building at Randolph and Clark the group marched to the Chicago Board of Trade Building on LaSalle Street, a sight that has recently become synonymous with the Occupy Chicago movement.
“It is amazing that our state officials continue to give tax breaks to folks who really don’t need it,” said James Povijua, an organizer with Chicago Jobs with Justice. “Average people from around the state do not support corporate welfare.”