Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

April 21, 2000

THOSE LABOR UNION members who currently work or have worked in the past as instructors and administrators in the Job Corps deserve a resounding round of applause for their labors in a successful federal program that provides a helping hand to disadvantaged youth.

The Job Corps "works," according to a recently-released study by Mathematica Policy Research, which was commissioned by the United States Department of Labor. In reporting and commenting on the study, Alan B. Krueger, a New York Times columnist, wrote: "The study finds that the Job Corps measurably improves the education and job prospects of disadvantaged youth. It also offers clues as to why."

Krueger, whose comments appeared in a recent "Economic Scene" column on the newspaper's business pages, is a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey.

HE NOTED THAT the Job Corps is "an original anti-poverty program from (President) Lyndon Johnson's Great Society" and that the study backs up what two-time heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman said in coming to the defense of the Job Corps in the mid-1990s when it faced deep congressional budget cuts. Krueger quotes Foreman as saying: "Job Corps took me from the mean streets and out of a nightmare lifestyle into a mode where the most incredible of dreams came true."

Professor Krueger's Economic Scene column went on to say:

"The Job Corps is the most intensive and expensive of the dwindling number of government programs for disadvantaged youth. The $1.3 billion cost last year amounts to about $20,000 for each participant. Although critics mistakenly argue that the Job Corps is as expensive as a year at Harvard - ignoring the public subsidy and endowment spending that raise Harvard's true costs for each student well above $50,000 a year - the costs are high.

"The stakes are also high. Each year, the program serves more than 60,000 mostly poor, urban high school dropouts who are 16 to 24 years old. A third of the male participants had been arrested at least once before joining the program; two-thirds of all participants had never held a full-time job. If the Job Corps does not improve the prospects of disadvantaged youth, then less-intensive programs are unlikely to help either.

"THE JOB CORPS is expensive because 90 percent of students are sent from their neighborhoods to one of 116 residential campuses in 46 states. There they stay for about eight months of academic education, vocational training, counseling, health education and job placement assistance..."

The study of the Job Corps tracked the employment records, earnings, and criminal activity of thousands of young people who went through the program and compared that information with data from thousands from the same socio-economic backgrounds who were not in the Job Corps.

The researchers found that Job Corps participants were more likely to be employed, earned more money, received less in public assistance and "were about 20 percent less likely to be arrested, charged or convicted of a crime ..."

Professor Krueger's column reached this conclusion:

"...THE NUMBER OF the Job Corps slots has been stable for decades, while the number of disadvantaged youth has exploded. President Clinton's latest budget proposal requests only a small increase. Why not set a loftier goal? Why shouldn't the Job Corps be able to accommodate every eligible youngster in the country?"


IRVIN H. FLETCHER, who retired last year as president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, has been tapped for membership in Labor' s Hall of Fame by the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council.

Fletcher, 67, lives in Woodburn, north of Salem, with his wife Eva, a retired federal employee. Irv is busy these days running for the District 38 seat in the Oregon House of Representatives. The district covers parts of Marion and Yamhill counties. He's unopposed in the May 16 Democratic primary election but will face a veteran Republican lawmaker in the November general election. His opponent, Marylin Shannon, served in the Oregon Senate until forced out by term limits. Shannon is a right-wing Republican who consistently voted against legislation that would benefit workers and their families.

A NATIVE OF MAINE, Fletcher served in the U.S. Navy in the Korean War era, and later obtained two college degrees from the University of Maine -a bachelor's and a master's in education. After a year teaching in northern California, he became a school teacher in Klamath Falls and in the early 1960s helped organize Local1664 of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO.

Irv, who became Local 1664's second president, organized car caravans to take food and other supplies to Cesar Chavez's embattled United Farm Workers at Delano, Calif. In 1970 Fletcher moved his family from Klamath Falls to Eugene where he worked as a painter to finance his pursuit of a master's degree in industrial relations from the University of Oregon. He joined the AFL-CIO Teachers in Eugene and became active in the Lane County Labor Council. He was elected secretary-treasurer in 1971 FLETCHER MADE A LIVING in the early 1970s by commuting to Salem to work as a coordinator of a program to prepare state prison inmates for employment before their release to the outside world. In that job he belonged to the non-affiliated Oregon State Employees Association, which later became the Oregon Public Employees Union/Local 503 of the Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO. After five years of traveling from his Eugene home to his Salem job, Fletcher secured employment in Eugene as director of the Oregon Bureau of Labor's new State Apprenticeship Center. He continued his state union membership and also retained his membership in the AFL-CIO Eugene Teachers local.

As a NW Labor Press1999 story on Fletcher's career noted, "As executive secretary of the Lane County Labor Council, he busied himself in a wide range of civic, civil rights, charitable and education organizations in the Eugene area. He also lobbied at the Oregon Legislature at Salem, and played a role in gaining legislative approval for the Labor Education and Research Center , which was established at the University of Oregon in 1977."

FLETCHER WAS ELECTED president of the Oregon AFL-CIO in 1981 at a convention in Springfield, in his then home county of Lane. At that point he'd been on the state labor federation's Executive Board for six years, during which time he made himself known within the labor movement throughout the state. He was elected president in what started out as a three-man race but wound up as a contest between him and the six-year incumbent, Robert G. Kennedy, former directing business representative of Portland Machinists District Council 24.

Fletcher held the presidency for18 years before retiring last Oct. 1. One of the federation's accomplishments in his tenure was buying its own office building at 2110 State Street in Salem.

During his labor career Fletcher was appointed to various state boards by six Oregon governors. In a lengthy account of his career in our Labor Day issue last year, the NW Labor Press reported: "Tom McCall appointed him to the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee; Bob Straub tapped him for the State School Commission; Vic Atiyeh appointed him to the Economic Development Commission; Neil Goldschmidt put him on the Oregon Progress Board and Oregon Public Broadcasting Commission; Barbara Roberts named him to the Employment Division Advisory Council, and John Kitzhaber picked him for the Oregon Workforce Advisory Council."

Fletcher has three sons and a daughter from a previous marriage and a dozen grandchildren.


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