Transcript: Testimony of Stan Osnowitz on the expiring federal unemployment insurance before the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee on Dec. 5, 2013

Partial transcript of testimony of Stan Osnowitz, an electrician and IBEW Local 24 member from Baltimore, Maryland, on the expiring federal unemployment insurance before the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee on Dec. 5, 2013:

My name is Stan Osnowitz. I’m from Baltimore, Maryland. I’m a journeyman wireman. I’m an electrician. I’ve been one since 1975.

I’ve done electrical work ever since I was a teenager. I’m 67 years young, and I’m capable, fully able, and eager to work.

I need to work. I love to work. It’s who I am.

I’ll tell you this: I hate being unemployed. It’s a waste of my time, my abilities.

And during the recent recession and the early part of the recovery, I was fortunate to have continuous work for a 3-year period on a job.

Knowing work in my industry could be sporadic, I put away money from that job and I’ve saved.

The 5-month job had ended earlier this year – on July 3rd – and now the unemployment insurance, which is my only income, and I’ve used my savings that I put away.

I’m in the 20th week of my regular state unemployment benefits and they’ll end in January.

Unemployment benefits have helped me scrape by week-to-week. And even with that, I’m not able to pay my portion of expenses for the apartment I share.

Trying to find a job is a very difficult thing. Construction work is hard to find in the winter, and outside of my industry from what I’ve seen potential employers see my age and look right past me.

I still get up at 4 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. every morning. That’s Saturday and that’s Sundays.

I’m actively pursuing work through my union and elsewhere.

Things should pick up for me in the spring. I’m looking every day for hopes of getting something sooner because I hate not working.

So here I am facing the end of my unemployment benefits in January. If this Congress does not act to renew the federal emergency unemployment compensation program, there will be no federal benefits for me and people like me.

If that happens and I’m still unemployed, I won’t be able to pay even the basics.

If Congress lets the UEC program shuts down, I won’t be able to put gas in my car to even look for a job. [Sigh] Tell me how that’s going to help me and help others like me get back to work?

Don’t allow them to shut this down. [Choking up] Thank you.


Q&A responses:

You start questioning your ability to do a job. Your worth drops. Your self-confidence drops. And it takes quite a bit to build that back up. It’s hard to be unemployed.

I think of myself as a craftsman. I build. I enjoy building. I like to look back at what I built and said I did that. That’s my pride.

When I don’t have that – when I don’t have a job – you feel worthless. It’s a feeling I don’t like.

I’ve been in the trade 43 years. I worked everything from bridges to steel mills to car plants and I’ve always given them the top-notch job I could. And the quality is what my pride is and that’s what I try to give. To do anything else is unfulfilling. It doesn’t give you a feel like a worth. Doesn’t make you feel good. It’s hard to do something else, not after all these years and all the training and continuous training that we go under.

The ripple effect that you’d get – personally, it takes away your self-worth. You lose it.

In some cases, I’ve known people that have been through the long-term – even longer than I have – and unfortunately they’re no longer with us; they could not handle it. They lose their money, their family; they lose everything. And they just end up losing themselves.

I guess that’s the ripple effect.


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