Reporting Robbie Owens
FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – When Fort Worth wife and mother Jennifer Wedel participated in a live video chat with President Obama a few weeks ago, she didn’t have any lofty concerns.
She didn’t ask about world peace or famine. She asked about families, namely those like hers that are struggling with long-term unemployment.
“I wasn’t going to let this opportunity go,” she said. “I wanted to make sure he heard me, and I feel like he did.”
Wedel said her husband was laid off from Texas Instruments three years ago. He had worked as an electrical engineer in the semi-conductor energy for more than 10 years before that. He hasn’t found a permanent position since.
Wedel blames abuse of H-1B visa programs that allow U.S. corporations to hire highly skilled foreign workers at lower wages while allowing American workers with similar skills to go jobless.
“There is nothing in place that protects Americans, that makes corporations look for American workers first,” Wedel said.
During the video chat, President Obama appeared surprised to hear that her electrical engineer husband had been on the job hunt for so long.
“The word we’re getting is that someone in that high-tech field should be able to find something right away,” he told her.
But President Obama prefaced that by saying his request for her husband’s resume was sincere.
Wedel complied and sent it to the White House. She said they received a phone call the very next day from the president’s deputy chief of staff, assuring them that Obama had taken a personal interest in their situation.
The White House followed through. The Wedels say several companies outside the area have contacted them. However, a custody agreement limits the job search to North Texas.
Still, the publicity alone has jump started Darin Wedel’s job search, they say. An area human resources employee saw their story and contacted him for an interview just last week.
“He said it went really, really well, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed and we’ll see how it goes,” she said.
But Jennifer Wedel said they are a family of faith, and feel strongly that the incredible opportunity they were given to share their story should not stop them.
So she created a website that encourages other families struggling with job loss to share their tales as well.
They can also submit resumes that Jennifer Wedel will collect and forward to other elected officials and the White House, as well.
“I’m not promising jobs; I wish I could –– and my heart goes out to those families because I know the struggles they face ––but to allow them an opportunity to say, ‘here I am, here’s your statistic, here’s your real number,” she said.
No matter what happens with her husband’s job search, Wedel said she has a new passion for the unemployed and feels that ultimately everyone “just wants to be heard.”
She said she feels her website makes that very thing happen.