Laid-off Oregonians ask Bush ‘where are the jobs?’

Laid-off workers gathered at a Portland press conference two days before a campaign stop by President George W. Bush seeking answers to what he is doing to bring back family-wage jobs to the Pacific Northwest.

“You’ll notice that when President Bush campaigns, he never asks the people, ‘Are you better off today than you ere four years ago.’ Maybe that’s because he knows the answer: not by a long shot,” said Kelly Cooper, a member of Machinists Lodge 63 who was laid off from Boeing Co. three years ago and has yet to find a new job.

Cooper’s position was outsourced to another country, so she did qualify for Trade Adjustment Act retraining assistance. But after studying journalism the 59-year-old is still having difficulty finding work.

Tim Flanagan, a member of the American Federation of Teachers, was laid of as a professor at Portland Community College after severe budget cuts forced the college to raise tuitions, which lowered enrollment.

“Now I am one of 127,914 unemployed Oregonians,” Flanagan said.

Oregon’s unemployment rate for June was 6.9 percent — well above the national average for the same period.

“President Bush says at his campaign events that we have ‘turned a corner’ in the economy, but his starvation of state budgets does nothing but put up roadblocks.

“We are told that there’s not enough money for us to invest in higher education, but we continue to give tax breaks to large corporations and Bush’s core elite.”

The unemployed Oregonians say they would love to ask the president all kinds of questions, but they won’t be given the chance.

Bush’s campaign stop in Portland was a closed-door event for invited guests only.

“If given the chance to meet with the president, I would tell him his irresponsible cuts in education hurt our children and undermine our nation and I would tell him that our workers deserve the opportunity to compete in the international marketplace and survive in a global economy,” said Flanagan of Lake Oswego.

“I am disappointed that President Bush is locking himself with business leaders while he was here instead of talking to the rest of us,” Cooper said.

“It makes you wonder if the president is paying attention,” added Judy O’Connor, executive secretary-treasurer of the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, speaking at the press conference. “After three years of a struggling economy, it’s hard to believe that at this rate, things are going to get better any time soon. Too many of us are out of work. Too many of us don’t have health care insurance. Too many of us who do have jobs are watching our wages lose the battle against inflation.”

Cooper and her husband, who is retired, pay $100 a month for a health insurance plan that requires a $10,000 deductible. “It’s the only health insurance we can afford,” she said. “I live in dread of us getting sick or injured.”

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