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And I'm not even joking. I have never heard of this and certainly didn't expect anywhere near this degree of response from the government, and rapidly no less!

On Tuesday at the Union hall we met with the Department of Labor's Rapid Response Team. They had representatives from both Kansas and Missouri Workforce Centers, a federal Department of Labor representative, and we even saw brief presentations of the different kinds of training classes and aid available. side note- A friend of mine came with a camera and filmed some of these workers. He got them in their own words. We will share that with you when he's got it ready.

There was also immediate assistance in getting approved for unemployment and a class to write a resume at, especially valuable to some of the older members with less computer skills. In my own arrogance I didn't think I needed it, then as I listened in I heard some pointers I would have hated to miss. I have already signed up for a course I discovered there about starting a business at UMKC, beginning in January.

Then on Friday we met with many of the same people at a job fair tailored towards us. It included a powerpoint of extremely detailed help wanted ads with an accompanying printout. I feel that I can say with certainty that the Union was right, we will all find jobs better than what the company was offering us. Some will no doubt make much more than they did at Hostess. Some will choose to enter training with programs tailored to moving these workers into skilled trades (HVAC, plumbing, welding,...). With financial help throughout.

The Friday job fair was the third time I have met up with my coworkers since the strike. The thing that sticks out to me most was the palpable improvement in the mood. Everyone seems excited about the options in front of them. Being told what is available is a lot easier than guessing, but being walked through the process is Heaven sent. And time saving. These people have at least some of the weights off their shoulders and it shows on their faces.

Filing for unemployment has been much more confusing than it needed to be and these meetings have dealt with all of it. There are many and varied things going wrong with unemployment benefits so far for different people. Everyone has received specific guidance about their individual situation from the Response Team.

I applied online and received approval. A week later I had my first payment. Then I received a letter disputing my claims and asking a bunch of questions. I showed it to the presenter on Friday and it turned out that a whole bunch of people had the same letter, but not everyone. She answered questions and we filled them out there. She then faxed all of them. It felt like progress anyway.

I was also glad to see some of the company supervisors at the Friday job fair. They were not in the Union and had to cross the line or be fired. I don't hold it against them, there is no Union protection for them. They were mostly on our side in the build up to the strike. They aren't stupid, they knew what the hedge funds were up to. I am glad to see they are steered to our job fair, I have no idea who told them. They may have received the same letter I did from the Kansas Workforce Center.

Next up from the Rapid Response Team I will take an assessment for career training today, Monday. I will take the test and it will match me to career fields and recommend training options. This will include classes or apprenticeships. There are apprenticeships were you can draw an hourly pay while training and emerge with a skilled trade. I hope to find that.

After I am assessed on Monday I will return Tuesday to go through training orientation. This will help me sign up for the programs and apply for financial aid. It is possible I could leave there signed up and ready to roll. Maybe not, but I will certainly have a better understanding of what's ahead after these next two days.

I can't even begin to explain how shocked I am by this process. I expected to do everything myself regarding unemployment and job searching. What a stress reliever! I probably wouldn't have even looked at training in a skilled trade, I would have thought I couldn't afford it.  Instead the Union and Department of Labor have been an enormous help and have shown me otherwise. And not just me, any of the members who are using this service.

Is this the government Grover Norquist was trying to drown? I have some questions for Grover. He will never answer them of course because no actual journalist will ever ask.

Isn't this good for the economy? Even Grover's narrow view of it? Aren't the ultimate beneficiaries the super-rich who need people with the specific skills to do these industrial jobs? How many pipefitters are trained this way and will end up working on the Keystone pipeline for the benefit of the rich? Would it be better to let these people stumble through alone? Wouldn't that lead to missed opportunities? Wouldn't that have long term consequences on the entire economy including increased welfare? Isn't the Federal government the only entity that could realistically be expected to handle this?

They ought to fully fund this process and let it evolve. I would love to know the origin of this program and who deserves credit. Even if it did nothing else for me it has already been invaluable.

Hey Grover- Government is not the problem this time.

Here are some local news reports I have come across about these meetings.
Emporia, KS
Salt Lake City, UT
Topeka, KS
Alexandria, LA

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