The Philadelphia Unemployment Project (PUP) has soldiered through five economic cataclysms since its founding in 1975, from the OPEC crisis to the Great Recession. Today, it is fighting to reinstate long-term benefits for the unemployed, which were dramatically pared back a few days after Christmas. To stay in the fight, PUP is hosting a "Jazz for the Jobless" fund-raiser Friday, featuring Sherry Butler and her quartet. Butler is a longtime Philly resident and former backup singer, who long ago moved to center stage.
The evening includes the presentation of the Economic Justice Award, which has gone to a variety of local labor and community activists over the years, including Lance Haver, director of the Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs. This year's recipient is Lou Agre, an organizer with Local 542 of the operating engineers union and a ward leader in Roxborough.
But the music is the main event. "We don't try to bore people with too many speeches or anything," says John Dodds, director of PUP. "It is mostly just entertainment." And sustenance: A home-cooked soul-food buffet is included in the ticket price. There is a cash bar.
In addition to lobbying for jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, PUP is focused on raising the state minimum wage. Daily responsibilities include counseling for people who are going through foreclosure and helping the unemployed with public assistance and their job search.
"The unemployed are not lazy bums," says Dodds. "They just got caught in an economy that's not working. As a wealthy nation, we are in a position to ensure they don't just lose everything."
At First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., 6 to 10 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $50 ($25 for the unemployed).