Jackie Speier hosts job fair in East Palo Alto


In East Palo Alto, an effort is under way to address the problem, a job fair. Bordered by freeways and a busy road that feeds traffic to the Dumbarton Bridge, residents of there see a lot of people going to work every day, but their community remains a pocket of high unemployment.

"A lot of hours are being cut back, which means less money, so it gets hard," jobseeker Chamika Banks told ABC7 News. Banks is typical of many of the jobseekers in East Palo Alto. They're underemployed and working part-time but hoping to find full-time jobs.

The postal service was there Tuesday with one category of full-time work, but a lot more temp jobs that may or may not lead to permanent jobs. "Our permanent jobs are for auto mechanic, and we have a lot of temporary jobs that can lead to career at a later time, our carriers, our clerks, our mail handlers, and even our custodians," Carol Croteau with USPS explained.

The job fair is an experiment by Congresswoman Jackie Speier to help one community that hasn't seen signs of an economic recovery. East Palo Alto's jobless rate is between 12 and 13 percent, more than double the rest of San Mateo County.

Mayor Ruben Abrica was glad to see seven employers there. "Get the employers to step forward more in communities like ours to help in some way because otherwise, I don't think it's healthy for a democracy to continue to push people down and not allow opportunities to get up and move on," he said.

Speier says partisan roadblocks in Washington have held up a jobs bill that could help East Palo Alto, so she's doing what she can locally. The biggest concern is people who have given up on looking for a job.

"You lose the job skills you had. You don't stay trained and there becomes a lethargy to go back to work. So, we don't want to get to the point where people give up," she said.

Jonathan Bryant is only a few weeks into his job search and says he's encouraged by what he sees in East Palo Alto. "I feel like there's not enough businesses hiring people from East Palo Alto. I would love to live where I work," he said.

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