The unemployment office on Lake Street in Minneapolis is called the Minnesota WorkForce Center. There is no need to remind the people who use its services that many of them are unemployed. The walk up and down Lake Street to the center consists of abandoned storefronts alternating with surviving local business. On Lake Street, the Minnesota WorkForce Center sticks out like a tower of brass.
Inside the facility, it is quiet, except for a few soft talkers and the tapping of keyboards – the sound of people looking for employment. Outside, it seems as though every car that drives by is missing a muffler. A couple of stacks of yellow phone books are bricked up under a clock. Most of the people are sitting and staring at computer screens, and there are a few waiting to sit and stare at the computer screens.
It’s 11:35 a.m., and kids who should be in school are walking in and asking for job applications. The people who work at the center are friendly when someone needs help making a resume or searching for job opportunities. It’s a nice facility. It’s calm and clean, and the chairs are comfortable.
I ask a WorkForce Center employee how the transit strike has affected the usage of the work center. He says there is normally a standing line of people at noon. Today, there isn’t a line. He says things are improving, but since the transit workers went on strike, traffic has decreased noticeably.
Earlier, a man had come in asking for an application. He said he had a job,but lost it because he couldn’t get to work without the buses. At least he made it to the unemployment office. Many of the people who are unemployed can’t even make it to the unemployment office.
It is heartless that Gov. Tim Pawlenty wanted this strike. He yearned for this strike. One can hardly blame the transit workers for striking when the only proposals offered would make them poorer. One can hardly blame the 94 percent of transit workers who voted for the strike when Metropolitan Council members in their expensive suits said they couldn’t find the money. As it stands, the unemployed can’t get to the unemployment office, and those who do have jobs can’t get to them and subsequently become unemployed.
Pawlenty knows the transit strike is hurting the people who are most vulnerable – the poor, students and the elderly. If we didn’t know before how much Pawlenty cares about the people of the Twin Cities, it is apparent now. He doesn’t care a whole lot.
Former Gov. Arne Carlson knew what was at stake in 1995 when stepped in and settled the strike with both sides leaving the table
contented. Carlson knew his role as governor. He knew he served all Minnesotans and not just the Taxpayers League of Minnesota or the illogical wing of the Republican Party.
But Pawlenty and his kind sit back in their suits, in their sport utility vehicles and in their suburban cesspools waiting for the strike to break. They’re waiting for any excuse to cut the guts out of public transit. They say that money would be better spent building more roads. I wonder whether Minnesota should be the state of 10,000 lanes.
Is it any revelation that if public transit money is put toward more asphalt, it will basically only benefit people who have their own vehicles and their own jobs to go to? Unfortunately for people in the Twin Cities, looking for work without any mode of transportation makes the struggle twice as hard.
Karl Noyes is a member of the Daily’s editorial board. He welcomes comments at [email protected]