Unemployed workers hopeful on president’s job plan

Around 50 unemployed people gathered in Mercado La Paloma just off the Figueroa Corridor to watch President Obama speak about his American Jobs Act to a joint session of Congress on Thursday. The event featured two viewing areas where attendees could watch the speech in English or Spanish.

Larry Taylor, a former security guard now on disability hopes the plan includes an extension on unemployment benefits.

Many came with friends or family members. Larry Taylor came to watch with his union, United Service Workers West. Before the speech began, Taylor, a former security guard now on disability, said he hoped Obama would offer an extension on unemployment benefits and a jobs package with new growth in construction jobs, as well as better opportunities in the arts and sciences.

“We need people with good brains to be paid to use them,” Taylor said. He also shared his frustrations with Congress. “I’m tired of this obstructionist attitude. Now is the time to come together.”

He’s not the only one who felt that way. Once the speech began, people clapped when the president said it was time to stop the “political circus” and put Americans back to work. But the biggest reaction from the crowd at Mercado La Paloma came when Obama addressed some of the inequities in the current tax and income structure. Viewers shouted and applauded in agreement.

Paul Villegas expressed on concern on the growing social and wealth disparities in the U.S.

For John Paul Villegas, this is an argument that defines the social inequality in this country. “The people at the top are making so much more than they used to,” he said. “But the people at the bottom are still making next to nothing. How can anyone ever catch up?”

Villegas liked what he heard in the speech, especially the promise of tax relief that would provide a $1,500 tax cut to the typical American family, but part of him worries that it’s too good to be true.

“It sounded so good, but it’s up to the people to re-elect him. If he doesn’t win in 2012, the whole plan could be out the window,” Villegas said.

Rosa Gudiel, about to lose her home, is looking to the president to create jobs and help homeowners.

For some, the evening presented a chance to talk about an issue closely related to jobs – housing. Rosa Gudiel, speaking through translator Peter Kuhns, said she was in the process of losing her house, but was determined to fight to the very end to save it. “I hope that the president really can create more jobs,” she said. “Then maybe we could really help the economy by helping homeowners.”

The gathering at Mercado La Paloma was one of nearly 200 “job speech viewing parties” held in homes, community centers and parks throughout South Los Angeles hosted by community organization Good Jobs LA. The South LA-based non-profit organized the events to emphasize how unemployment is “the number one issue” affecting local communities.