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"We Need Help Now" UNITE HERE Michigan Director On Economic Crisis
Date 09/02/11/02:36

Remarks to Detroit City Planning Commission
by UNITE HERE Michigan State Council Director
Clayola Brown
Feb. 5, 2009

Chairman Simons and members of the Commission:

Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I would especially like to thank the Rev. Dr. Darryl Totty, whose son –who we affectionately refer to as “DJ” -- works with some of us. Dr. Totty was most kind in helping pave the way for this opportunity to address you today.

My name is Clayola Brown. I am the director of the Michigan State Council of the union UNITE HERE.

Our union represents more than 10,000 workers throughout the state of Michigan. Almost 8,000 of those workers live and work in the Detroit area.

The members of my union work at hotels and in casinos. They have jobs in the hospitality industry and in food service. They prepare meals to be loaded onto planes at Detroit Metro Airport, endure the heat of industrial laundries, and work hard in this state’s troubled auto parts industry in locations like Jackson and Grand Rapids.

I commend the commission for holding today’s hearing. I listened with close attention to the presentation by Dr. Adelaja and to the comments which followed it. There is nothing more important to our union that the subject of this meeting – how we revive the economy of this city and this country. For the members of my union, this matter is literally a life-and-death question. Our members who work in casinos are reminded every day that the general public has less money to spend on gaming. Our members who work in hotels know firsthand about the decline in business travel and about the families who are staying closer to home during their vacation instead of traveling.

We in the Michigan State Council of UNITE HERE stand ready to work with this commission to look at creative ways to help bring about long-term solutions to this region’s economic problems. However, while long-range solutions definitely need to be set in motion, we want you to know that our members also need immediate help. THEY NEED HELP RIGHT NOW.

Many of the members of my union simply cannot wait for a long-range solution to the country’s economic problems. Some of them are seeing their jobs move from being full-time to part-time or short-time. These jobs are headed on the way to being “no time.” Meanwhile, the bills keep coming full time!

As we meet here today, Detroit is at the top of the list of cities with the highest number of unemployed people nationwide. The city of Detroit has an unemployment rate of over 21 percent, putting the city on a par with the rate during the Great Depression. Those are not my words, but rather a matter of record.

In the city of Detroit, 18 percent of adults do not have a high school diploma. In the year 2007, some 11 percent of the entire state of Michigan did not have health insurance. At the same time, while that 11 percent of the entire state lacked health insurance, 23 percent of the uninsured were African-American. I believe it is extremely important to guarantee that as we fashion solutions, we make sure that the historically underserved population does not get left out of the equation. We cannot have economic development that does not address those realities.
We hope that you will always bear this in mind as you consider different proposals about economic development in Detroit.

Thank you.

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