As state Attorney General and gubernational candidate, one would think Tom Corbett would bump into Sandi Vito, Pa. Secretary of Labor and Industry, in his travels around the Capitol Complex in Harrisburg. Mr. Corbett would be wise to sit down with Ms. Vito and discuss some of the specifics she outlines in a recent "opinion" column that ran in the TIMES NEWS on July 13.
In her piece, Ms. Vito points out there are "a half million people out of work right now that we can refer you (employers) to," as well as indicating, "they (the unemployed) would be glad to be put into a position of family sustaining employment right now." She knows, because, as she says, she has personally spoken to many unemployed workers who have indicated they want to work.
Of course, the main intent of Ms. Vito's column was to dispel claims that businesses can't find people to work for them because they would rather collect unemployment benefits. While she did not identify the origin of those claims, she wasn't pointing the finger too far from the Capitol Complex.
During a tour of small businesses in Lancaster County last week, Mr. Corbett was quoted as saying, "People don't want to come back to work while they still have unemployment. They're literally telling – I'll come back to work when the unemployment runs out. That's becoming a problem. The jobs are there, but if we keep extending unemployment the people are going to sit there and… I've literally had construction companies tell me, I can't get people to come back to work, until… they say, 'I'll come back to work when unemployment runs out.'"
Since the recession began in December 2007, nearly 8 million jobs have been lost nationally. Locally, double-digit unemployment numbers surround us: In Carbon it is 11.2 percent; Schuylkill, 11.0; and Monroe, 10.1. Collectively, that means over 20,000 persons are without work, including 3,500 in Carbon County. But according to Mr. Corbett, the jobs are there. Maybe he could pay a visit to Carbon County and point out these jobs. All of us know of unemployed residents who are looking for work and struggling to keep food on the table. They would be happy to know of these so-called jobs available.
One would think Mr. Corbett's opinion of the unemployed in the commonwealth would change if he paid a visit for one of the many PA CareerLink Centers. These offices are meant to help the unemployed find work, have classrooms where people undergo job training, and also help them polish their interviewing skills. Unfortunately, after a visit to a CareerLink in Lancaster in March, Mr. Corbett gave us a preview of what he thought of the unemployed. When asked of the people utilizing the center Mr. Corbett was quoted, "I think, what I heard was that's only 10 percent of the people that are on unemployment in this county. The other 80, 90 percent, where are they? Are they looking for a job? And I think that's a problem."
It seems as if a pattern is developing regarding Mr. Corbett and his attitude towards the unemployed in our state. In his own insulting way, he's brushed over a half million Pennsylvanians with one broad stroke. That is exactly the kind of leadership Pennsylvania does not need for its future.
In alarming and contrasting fashion, Dan Onorato, Allegheny County Executive, understands every economic turnaround begins with having a positive approach in working to create opportunities, similar to what he has done in his home county. All one has to do for verification of this is visit the City of Pittsburgh to witness the impressive signs of prosperity in what was once a victim of the steel industry.
Yes, Pennsylvania and the entire U.S. is weathering the storm of the worst recession we have experienced in decades. But it'll only get worse if we allow negativity and criticism to stand in the way of what we have to do to make things better for the people we represent. Dan Onorato understands this. Apparently Tom Corbett is still learning.
Billy O'Gurek Jr., Chair