Yesterday, we posted about new, punitive unemployment insurance laws being passed in South Carolina, a reaction (in the words of one Republican lawmaker) to “liberal, activist judges.”
Under the new laws, conditions like drug testing and community service- normally a consequence reserved for criminal offenders- will be imposed upon those who cannot find jobs in the state of South Carolina. What’s more, after a period of unemployment, many formerly middle class workers will be forced to take minimum wage jobs or risk losing their unemployment benefits.
If it sounds cruel to you, that could be because it is, and one social justice has pointed out the none-too-subtle parallels to the way the state wants to treat the unemployed and how criminals are treated- Sue Berkowitz of the Appleseed Legal Justice Center pointed out that the funds could be better directed in supporting day care programs and job development, and she explained:
“These are people who lost their jobs and want to support their families with dignity. We’re not sending the right message. We talk to them as if they’re already a criminal.”
Indeed, the measures would seem far less regressive if the country wasn’t experiencing record breaking unemployment rivaling that seen during the Great Depression. Democratic lawmaker in the state Sen. Kent Williams pointed out that for some of South Carolina’s unemployed, the jobs just aren’t there- and that a permanent ticket to minimum wage status is not the way to move forward:
“Someone with a college degree, we don’t want them to be taking out the trash. In the private sector, we see every day, people take jobs they’re less accustomed to. It’s just the way things are and the economy we’re living in today, but at the same time, we want to be careful not to let something good turn to something negative.”
Republican Senator Paul Campbell remarked that the measures were not intended to be punitive, but instead were meant to “help [unemployed people] go from the unemployed to employed ranks.” Do you think that the measures in South Carolina will help people get jobs that aren’t minimum wage?