Archive for October, 2012

Many trees in Tenlytown were uprooted as a result of the storm. (Photo by Gerard Calis)

By Henry Kerali

Residents seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief as life in the Tenlytown area of Washington, D.C., appeared to return to normal Tuesday. This comes in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc across the East Coast late on Monday.

As the storm ripped through New Jersey and New York leaving behind untold damage, the District meanwhile, was left relatively unscathed.

The last few days has brought the East Coast to a standstill with millions of Americans forced to stay at home from work to seek shelter. In New York, the stock exchange closed its trading floor for a second day, while in D.C., the federal government was also closed. For the vast number of local businesses forced to close its doors, the overall impact Superstorm Sandy could have on them, and therefore, the economy, remains to be seen.

But in Tenlytown, stores and restaurants were open for business as residents went back to work.

Pedro Lazo, store manager at Robeks, said although the smoothie chain shut its doors on Monday, the storm didn’t have too great an impact on business. “It hurt us in a day,” he said. “It wasn’t too bad. We didn’t lose power. That’s the main important thing.”

However, Lazo added that on Tuesday business was slower due in large part to schools being closed. “Today hasn’t been so good,” he explained. “Because of the weather people have stayed indoors.”

Tayfun Uzun, general manager at Angelico la Pizzeria, shared a similar experience to Lazo. He said the restaurant had to close three hours earlier the day the hurricane hit. And while the pizzeria was lucky enough not to lose power, Uzum revealed that delivery sales were affected.

‘We were short on staff,” he said. “A few people didn’t show up. We were kind of jammed, but we were fine.”

While certain stores and restaurants in Tenlytown suffered slightly as a result of Sandy, not all businesses were affected by the storm. Daniel Marshall, a junior in International Studies and Film at American University, works at Hudson Trail Outfitters. He said the store thrived as the hurricane approached.

“There were lots of people freaking out about the hurricane,” he said. “They were coming in to buy headlamps and flashlights. We definitely benefitted from that.”

As the District gets back on its feet, WMATA announced that both Metrorail and Metrobus would begin operating again on a limited schedule from 2pm Tuesday, after suspending transit service on Monday. Furthermore, the transit authority said normal service would resume from Wednesday onwards. Furthermore, D.C. Public Schools and the federal government will also open on Wednesday.

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The D.C. Labor FilmFest takes place at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD.

By Henry Kerali

The DC Labor FilmFest is under way in Silver Spring, MD.

The festival, organized by the Metropolitan Washington Council, is now in its twelfth year since its inception in 2001.

Chris Garlock, Union Cities coordinator at the Metropolitan Washington Council, is the director of the DC Labor Film Fest. For him, the festival is a chance to showcase films that typically portray people in the workplace. He said that not enough films depict the ordinary worker.

“For many workers, when they see a film, they don’t see themselves up there,” said Garlock. “Work is very rarely portrayed well in the movies – either you’re invisible completely or their portrayals are one-dimensional or not very interesting.”

This year’s festival in particular has a focus on public sector workers, with films such as “Burn” and “American Teacher” on show. And Garlock was keen to stress that the festival is not merely a labor union film festival, but a film festival in its own right.

“Our primary thing is we’re looking for films that are entertaining and that are very good – that you’ll come out to see,” he said. “It’s not a union labor film festival; it’s about work and workers.”

For more on this year’s festival, click on the link below. D.C. Work Rate’s Henry Kerali reports from the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre.

(Photo and Soundcloud thumbnail picture courtesy of DC Labor FilmFest’s Facebook page.)

Ward 8 continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the District.

By Henry Kerali

The Washington, D.C., unemployment rate dropped to 8.7 percent in the month of September, a 0.1 percent decrease from August. Of the eight Wards in the District of Columbia, ward eight remains the most affected by joblessness with a rate of 21.9 percent. Meanwhile, ward three has the lowest unemployment rate at 2.2 percent.

In a report from the Department of Employment Services, preliminary numbers for the month of September show there was an increase of 7,600 jobs in the area bringing the overall total to 736,000 jobs. While the private sector gained 7,400 jobs, the public sector also increased by 200 jobs.

The D.C. unemployment figures for the month of October will be released by the Department of Labor on Nov. 20.

Panelists discuss ways to get the unemployed back to work. (Photo by Janay Christian)

By Henry Kerali

A policy summit that focused on jobs in the energy sector took place at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Industry experts allege that while there is a growing demand for jobs, few people in the workforce have the skill set required for these positions.

Keynote speaker, Jane Oates, assistant secretary of ETA at the U.S. Department of Labor, acknowledged the disparity by saying that the government is doing more to help employees improve their skills.

“Getting people into a job is the single most important part of my job,” Oates said.

She highlighted the importance of Jobs Corps and Registered Apprenticeship – training programs that lead unemployed workers into jobs.

Apprenticeships are prevalent in companies in the manufacturing and construction trades. However, such programs are becoming more common in growing industries, such as the energy sector.

Oates mentioned that the Department of Labor is placing greater emphasis on apprenticeship programs providing workers with industry-recognized credentials. Oates says credentials are essential to aiding workers in establishing their careers.

“It’s not about getting a job; it’s about getting a career trajectory,” she said.

Skills Gap, Structural Unemployment

With the unemployment rate now lower than eight percent, displaced older workers, students entering the workforce and war veterans are among the demographics particularly affected by joblessness.

This is due in large part to a skills gap. In the manufacturing industry alone, as much as 600,000 jobs are going unfilled because of unqualified applicants. Economists attribute this to structural unemployment.

Panelists at the policy summit discussed the impact that this is having on the job market. Nicole Smith, senior economist at The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said that structural unemployment is an endemic problem.

On the manufacturing and construction industries, Smith said, “Where jobs [in that area] have been lost, they are not coming back, and where the jobs have been gained, they are in different sectors.”

Smith added that job growth has surfaced in post-secondary sectors, such as healthcare and education. But the main concern for her is not just the widening skills gap, but for the people who have been unemployed for six months or more.

“Many employers are reluctant to hire people who have been unemployed for a substantial number of months,” said Smith. “Once they see a few gaps [in your CV], they naturally assume that maybe you’re unemployable.”

Community Colleges

While that is the case, the panelists were in agreement over the role community colleges play in solving the conundrum the skills gap poses.

Clay Goodman, vice president of Occupational Education at Estrella Mountain Community College, said that community colleges provide an alternative to traditional four-year degrees. He also talked of a growing trend that is taking place in institutions across the country.

“Right now there’s a trend called ‘Reverse Transfer’,” he said. “People who have a four-year degree in, say, the liberal arts, are coming back to community colleges to get a skill set that has some economic value.”

But for Dave Owens, executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, he feels as though substantial improvements of the nation’s education system need to be made. He said that not enough children are interested in studying subjects like science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

“We’ve got to realign our curricula … so the curricula are practical to the jobs that are being created,” he said.

(Anchor lede voiced by Natalie Plumb. Story voiced and produced by Henry Kerali.)