Although she has been in Congress only a few months, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, already has garnered attention – not only for her fondness for flashy hats but also for her advocacy on many issues facing minorities.
Wilson will host the fourth stop on the Congressional Black Caucus’ For The People Jobs Initiative, which begins today at 6 p.m. EDT with a town hall at Mount Herman AME Church in Miami Gardens.
Activities continue Tuesday with a Job Fair from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EDT at the James L. Knight Center in Miami.
Wilson told Politic365 she was planning a job fair when the black caucus cemented its plans for the For The People Jobs Initiative, so she volunteered downtown Miami, in the southern reach of her 17th Congressional District, as a participating city.
In Wilson’s view, a major barrier many face in securing employment in the new economy — especially older adults — is a lack of technological savvy.
“What a lot of people have not realized is that technology has really changed the whole scheme of unemployment, and many people who lost their jobs – it has to do with technology,” said Wilson. Technology has transformed many industries, she said, from aviation and public sanitation to transportation and toy manufacturing.
“My little grandson asked me the other day to play checkers with him,” Wilson said. “I asked him for the checkerboard and he comes with and iPad.”
Wilson champions training people to meet the technological demands of society. Wilson introduced H.R. 2574, also called the Jobs Now Act of 2011, which she modeled after the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act to provide job creation, training and re-training by streaming federal dollars to local governments and community groups.
When asked to provide her thoughts on the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile USA, which many believe could create thousands of jobs, the congresswoman said she saw no problems with the proposal. “I’ve had many briefings on it,” she said, “and I can’t find anything that I would find offensive or would hurt people.”
Wilson is making sure that the jobs’ fair in Miami provides local industries such as tourism with a mechanism to provide jobs, in addition to addressing several factors that have led to high unemployment in Miami, now over 13 percent. To that end, Wilson said cruise lines and Loews hotels would be at the job fair, as would professionals who can help restore the rights of felons and advise attendees who may need assistance on sealing and expunging criminal records.
In addition, officials from Immigration Naturalization Services will be on hand to help immigrants seeking green cards. “We have a large Haitian population and a large Hispanic population,” Wilson said. “We’re like the little United Nations.”
Attendees also will have access to workshops on writing resumes, handling job interviews and searching for jobs online.
Wilson said the Jobs Fair in Miami would address the problem of home foreclosures as well.
“We have banks coming to help people mitigate their loans and try to help in as many ways as we can,” said Wilson. “Our office has been working with the banks throughout this whole catastrophic dilemma with the housing market. Since I was in the Florida Senate we’ve helped so many people save their homes. It seems as if when a congressperson gets involved, it changes the whole picture. So we’ve been doing all that when we can to help people save their homes.”
Wilson said President Barack Obama’s stimulus initiative helped save many jobs. She said the Tea Party has launched an offensive to see that Obama is not reelected.
“I think that the president will create a jobs bill, and I think that the greatest jobs bill that we presently have is the Affordable Care Act,” Wilson said. “I think that thousands of jobs that the Affordable Care Act will produce and is producing right now benefits the African American community.”
Wilson said federal stimulus spending had a clear effect on employment in her state. “I know that when the first stimulus package was passed, I was a member of the Florida Senate,” she said. “Thousands of teachers who were African Americans, police officers – their jobs were saved because the stimulus money came through to help. HBCUs were saved because the stimulus money came through. The Pell Grants were saved; all of these are issues of the African-American community,” Wilson told Politic365.
Wilson was critical of the Tea Party’s attacks on Obama — she believes it is driven by racism — and said it was vital that African Americans support the president.
“We used to have the Green Party. We have the Green Party, but they never were able to get any real traction the way this Tea Party has gotten traction is phenomenal, and it’s all racist — its race-baiting, and as African Americans we don’t need to get caught up in to that,” Wilson said. “Unless we want Michele Bachmann or Mitt Romney to be president, we need to stay with our base, support our president and help him move this agenda in this difficult time, when you’re dealing with rigid people who are holding the country hostage in this Tea Party movement. And you have to understand who these people are and that they have one agenda and that agenda is for Mr. Obama to be a one-term president. If you want that to happen, then you go around the nation criticizing the president. If you don’t want it to happen, then you need to support him.”
Wilson is a native of Miami, a graduate of Fisk University (she was in the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority) and of the University of Miami, where she earned a master’s in education. She taught school for a number of years, left the field to raise her three children, then returned as an assistant principal and later served as principal.
She was on the school board for Miami-Dade County and in 1998 was elected to the Florida House. She served in the Florida Senate from 2002 to 2010, when she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.