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Collaborate to weather the recession 

Like old-fashioned barn raisings, activists can help each other polish resumes and network to identify job openings

More than 31 million Americans have been idled by this grave recession. Though the number is shockingly high, anyone out of work can easily feel alone despite so many millions of fellow jobless Americans who also can’t sleep worrying about bills, who also spend dreary days surfing job listings, who also scrimp to stay fed.

But there is strength in numbers, and the more jobless Americans work together, the quicker they can collectively end this devastating downturn: This is the idea behind Ur Union of Unemployed, or UCubed, by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The organization seeks to unify unemployed Americans to use their collective skills to help get each other back to work.

UCubed aggregates the unemployed into cubes of six people within a particular zip code. The cubes are then organized into neighborhoods of nine subcubes, and then assembled into blocks. Unemployed residents in a specific area—UCubed activists—can thereby find each other and harness their collective power in ways local politicians and merchants can’t ignore.

Moreover, UCubed enables them to apply their talents to help others through the hard times even as they help themselves. How?

 First, like old-fashioned barn raisings, activists can help each other polish resumes, practice interview techniques, apply for community programs, and network to identify job openings. Second, UCubed activists can pressure the federal and state governments to respond more quickly and effectively to the job crisis.

 Certainly, the only way to get the attention of lawmakers is to band together and speak up. The UCubed website is a tool for doing just that. It provides links to the JOBS Now! campaign, which enables participants to e-mail members of Congress on such urgent issues as a new jobs bill, the expansion of unemployment compensation, the extension of the COBRA subsidy, increased food-stamp appropriations, and tax relief. For these reforms to be realized, Congress and the White House must hear from the legions of unemployed Americans. State officials will also get forceful reminders from UCubed activists that jobs are urgently needed now.

As UCubed blocks multiply, a searchable library of skills and talents will be added. There, activists and potential employers can find potential barter partners and prospective hires. UCubed activists select their own leadership not only within local cubes, but within neighborhoods, power blocks, within zip codes, and at the state level.

They will gain access to the Machinists Mall. Previously available only to union members, that site provides discounts and rebates from

retailers throughout the country. UCubed activists will qualify for quarterly rebates of up to six percent on products ranging from clothes and electronics to books and sporting goods.

Why is the Machinists Union involved? More than 35,000 members of our union have been laid off. Others are working fewer hours each week because their employers simply do not have orders to fill. And the real recovery, not the false one on Wall Street, seems years away.

 The union’s problems aren’t unique. Everywhere we turn we see the personal devastation this grave recession has caused. We understand going it alone isn’t in anyone’s interest. UCubed provides relief from the isolation that accompanies unemployment. Instead of limiting the resource to union members, we want to empower all unemployed Americans.

To become a UCubedactivist, simply go to unionofunemployed.com. Gain the satisfaction of joining an effort to help fellow Americans rejoin the workforce and once again enjoy the pride that comes with a hard day’s work. Together, we will not only weather this recession, but emerge from it stronger than ever before.

R. Thomas Buffenbarger is president of the International Association ofMachinists and Aerospace Workers. Send comments via the editor at econnolly@newtimesslo.com.

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