Rep. Terri Sewell says unemployment is biggest issue in 7th Congressional District
Unemployment is the biggest issue facing people in West Alabama's 7th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Terri A. Sewell, D-Ala., said Wednesday.
Sewell, who represents the district in Congress, was speaking to a crowd of about 100 people at a town hall meeting at the McDonald-Hughes Community Center in Tuscaloosa.
The district includes parts of Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Birmingham and most of the Black Belt.
Sewell said the average unemployment rate for the district when she took office in 2010 was 14.1 percent. To combat that, she set up an annual job fair to help job seekers find employment. Sewell said the job fair will be alternated between rural and urban areas of the district.
The first job fair, held in Birmingham, drew more than 5,000 people.
She said she had also created project R.E.A.D.Y. — Realizing Everyone's Ability to Develop Yourself — featuring workshops offering job training and assistance. These projects have helped reduce the unemployment rate to 10.3 percent in 2014, she said.
“One can't wait for the federal government to come up with solutions to job creation,” Sewell said. “We have to work on it every day on the local level, the state level and definitely the national level.”
Sewell said it is the government's job to help job seekers succeed through tax structure and other programs, however. She said a good start would be the Surface Transportation Bill, which will provide $3 billion toward infrastructure, but she doesn't think that bill will be addressed in Congress this term.
“I don't hold much hope that we'll get a lot of legislation passed in 2014,” Sewell said.
Marshall Killingsworth of McCullough, raised the concern of bringing citizens of foreign countries to work in America because Americans don't have the labor skills. Sewell said President Barack Obama is encouraging companies to train employees and then give them tax breaks once hired to close the skills gaps. She said she hopes to introduce a workforce development tax credit bill that will do just that.
Sewell said the Keystone pipeline would provide many jobs for Americans and, if it were put to a vote tomorrow, she said she would vote for it.
She said she is generally supportive of free trade, especially because Alabama has many agricultural products it exports, but she believes it has to be fair. Sewell said she will vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which seeks to manage trade, promote growth and regionally integrate the economies of the Asia-Pacific region. She said too many people will be adversely affected, leaving the American worker behind.
Sewell is seeking a third term in Congress on a platform of further lowering the unemployment rate. She is facing Tamara Harris Johnson, former Birmingham city attorney, in the Democratic primary on June 3.