City Residents Struggle Despite Job Growth

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Eddie Gise considers himself a jack of all trades.

He’s managed a shoe store, worked construction, and driven limousines and buses. Gise can, and has done, a multitude of jobs, but can’t seem to scrape together one living-at least not one that will adequately provide for his three children, he says.

Gise is part of the Connecticut Data Haven reported 1 in every 3 Greater New Haven area residents that are underemployed-unable to find either any work at all or a job that is fulltime. In Gise’s case, it’s the latter.

“I am currently working part-time for the State of Connecticut,” Gise says. “When someone dies, and they have no family to make arrangements, I am called in by the State to transfer the deceased a funeral home.”

That’s what has got him tied up today-Gise had to cancel his appearance at New Haven Rising’s September 9 press event announcing the launch of the group’s campaign for “good-paying jobs”. Gise’s statement was provided in writing to members of the media by New Haven Rising. He may not have been able to be there in person, but perhaps that in itself says it all. This isn’t the first thing being overworked and underpaid has forced him to give up.

“I want to be working in a stable, full-time job,” Gise wrote in the statement. “I want to be able to better provide for my family. I enjoy giving back to the community. At one point, I had a drive to collect Christmas toys to give away to children who weren’t getting presents, but without a full-time job, I don’t have the stability or resources to plan events like the Christmas drive.”

So what would constitute a stable job for someone like Gise? That’s what New Haven Rising, along with the crowd of New Haven residents and City Alders that have jam packed the Elks Club on Webster Street to discuss. And “good-paying jobs”-the rallying cry of New Haven Rising’s movement-is not just a buzz word. It’s all in the numbers.

Take a Connecticut family of four-a household with two parents and two children-for example. Assuming that both parents work, they would have to combine to make an $82,848 salary to make ends meet, according to A Project of Wider Opportunities for Women’s Best Initiative Basic Economic Security Tables for Connecticut, one of the reports cited in New Haven Rising’s presentation.

“That’s two adults working full-time, for [almost] $20 an hour,” says Kenneth Reveiz, an organizer with New Haven Rising. “We know people are struggling with being unemployed or underemployed.”

With a five-member household, Gise, who is married, is sure to have even greater income demands. But how many jobs pay $20 or more?

In New Haven, 47,452, according to the Connecticut Data Haven’s 2013 Community Index, another report cited by New Haven Rising. That’s out of the city’s 82,658 jobs.

“We’re talking about 36,000 that do not pay a livable wage,” says Seth Poole, another organizer with New Haven Rising.

And in a city where the September unemployment rate hit a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 7.1 in July-a jump from June’s 6.7-jobs are, ironically, not as scarce as one might think. New Haven saw 5 percent more of them between 2002 and 2012, according to Connecticut Data Haven.

“There are jobs out there, and we need access to those jobs,” Poole says. “We need to be able to feed our families.”

Access: that, and more specifically, to jobs that pay a livable wage, is what is at the heart of the issue for New Haven Rising and city residents.

In 2011, New Haven residents filled 31 percent of the city’s then-77,000 jobs, according to A Renaissance for All of Us, a report from the Connecticut Center for New Economy.

As of that year, 19 percent-or around 9,000-of the city’s living wage jobs were filled by New Haven residents, according to Connecticut Data Haven. Low income workers fared even worse, with only 4 percent finding an employer that pays enough for them to get by on. And the rest? They scramble, hustling from job to job while cutting expenses to get by. Eamon Linehan, a former New Haven resident, can relate.

“I ended up making a budget of thirty bucks a week for food to make rent,” Linehan says. “You end up doing lots of crazy stuff.”

That’s while he was working two to three jobs at a time to cover close to $1,000 a month in rent-not including utilities.

“And trying to do stuff under the table, to try and make ends meet,” Linehan says.

He couldn’t keep it up. Recently, he moved out of the city.

“I moved upstate because the rents are cheaper there,” he says. “New Haven’s really, really rough.”

Of course now, he has transportation expenses from his commute to worry about.

“It’s very scary when even two and three jobs can’t make ends meet,” Linehan says.

So where are the living wage jobs?

“We say Eds and Meds,” Poole says. “Schools, hospitals.”

More specifically, Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital, the two biggest employers in the city. As of 2011, Yale University and its 16,497 employees topped the list, with the hospital-which provided 8,580 jobs-right behind, according to The Connecticut Center for New Economy.

Between 2001 and 2011, healthcare-related work-16 percent of employment opportunities in the city-saw growth of 10 percent or more. Education, which makes up 7 percent of the city’s job market, also falls into this category, according to Connecticut Data Haven.

Places like Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital are where New Haven Rising plans to start. The group is planning to schedule meetings with the top 20 employers in the city, as well as local elected officials to discuss ways to open more doors for New Haven residents.

“We have people working two and three jobs and they’re not home to raise their kids,” says Pastor Valerie Washington of Upon This Rock Ministries.

For her, that narrative hits too close to home. Until Washington found work as a city employee-a job she held before becoming a pastor-she was raising two sons while on welfare. In the Greater New Haven area, more and more people face similar circumstances-between 1995 and 2010, the percentage of parents raising children alone went from 25 percent to 34 percent, according to Connecticut Data Haven.

Through church, Washington sees the challenges of those community members up close.

“They are absent from home which causes the children to raise themselves,” Washington says. “We’re waiting for the day that every New Haven resident has a good job.”

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