By Florence Rankin

TIFTON - Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, in town Friday to speak at the Tifton Kiwanis Club's noon meeting, told members his pledge as commissioner will be to "continue to be for the working folks."

Thurmond, a Clarke County native who served in the Georgia General Assembly before becoming labor commissioner, is up for re-election in November.

He said he expects two groups to be of concern in the future: seniors and young black men.

"With what's happening in the stock market, there are probably many senior citizens who are thinking about going back to work," said Thurmond.

"Later in this century, the largest group of employees we'll have will be senior citizens."

Thurmond asked members of the audience to imagine the scene in a state prison. "Who do you see there?" he said. "That's right, young black men. It costs the taxpayers about $28,000 to incarcerate a person for one year. Now, I believe that the people who rape, rob and murder ought to go to prison. But of the 85 percent of prisoners who are non-violent, what's going to happen? They're going to get out. And studies have pointed out that the crime rate for young black men with jobs is the same as for young white men with jobs."

Thurmond said he believes the labor department should "teach the value and dignity of work."

"I believe it's just as important to learn to use your hands as it is to use your head," Thurmond said. "There is dignity in work. My daddy always said, 'Give an honest day's work for an honest day's pay,' and I think that ought to be respected."

Thurmond was also the guest speaker for Moultrie Tech's GED graduation exercises, held Friday night in Norman Park.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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