Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
During the past several months, the Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign (WERC) has been urging the AFL-CIO to organize a Solidarity Day III demonstration that would focus above all on the need for the government to create millions of jobs to respond to the devastation that the surge in unemployment has inflicted on the lives of working people. The AFL-CIO did not vote in favor of a Solidarity Day III. However, by endorsing and agreeing to build the October 2nd demonstration for jobs, called by SEIU 1199 and the NAACP, the AFL-CIO is in essence embracing the idea of Solidarity Day III under a different name. This decision is an historic step forward and should be soundly applauded.
While all the WERC-inspired resolutions from unions, labor councils and state federations across the nation for a Solidarity Day III event undoubtedly played a role leading to this development, the crucial impetus surely sprang from the anger swelling in the ranks of working people. So many of them or those close to them have lost their jobs, their health care and their homes while the Wall Street racketeers — who caused the financial crisis — are back to their risky speculations, raking in billions of dollars in profits while fighting tenaciously against any restrictive regulation.
October 2nd could not have come at a better time. We recently learned that the economy, far from enjoying a recovery, lost 131,000 jobs in July. Home foreclosures increased 9 percent in July. During the past year, ending on March 31, personal bankruptcies rose 28 percent.
This past week Congress passed a $26 billion so-called jobs bill, but it hardly scratched the surface of the problem: It will save several hundreds of thousands of jobs, while leaving the more than 8 million workers who were thrown out of work during the current recession with nothing. And worst of all, this bill was in part financed by cutting food stamps, which means Congress took from the most desperate and vulnerable among us. Quick to calculate what is in their own self-interest, members of Congress must have concluded that these people seldom vote.
The current crisis is bad, but it could become much worse. Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, recently offered this foreboding testimonial: “The problem we now face is the most extraordinary financial crisis that I have ever seen or read about.” (The New York Times, August 7, 2010).
We have recently sent out two WERC communications urging our readers to actively build the October 2nd demonstration. They both triggered very positive responses from rank-and-file union members as well as many union officers who see a huge demonstration as the best way to fight for the needs of working people. We are writing you this time with some concrete suggestions we are hoping you might implement.
1. Raise resolutions in support of the October 2nd demonstration in your unions and local labor councils. We are including a model resolution below, adapted from our recent WERC posting. The AFL-CIO is rumored to be considering the inclusion of additional cities in the October 2nd demonstration such as Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Phoenix. If this rumor proves true, raise resolutions in your unions and labor councils to help build the demonstration nearest to you.
2. Present compelling arguments to the organizers of this demonstration that it should highlight demands that truly respond to the needs of working people, as opposed to minimal demands that will inspire no one. Over 8 million people were thrown out of work, thanks to the current recession, but there were already over 6 million unemployed workers at the outset of the recession. We should demand the government create at least 15 million jobs while taxing Wall Street to pay for them. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has argued, a massive job-creation program is the best way to fight the federal budget deficit, and, since Wall Street caused the crisis, it should pay to repair the damage. Other demands could include no cuts to Social Security; a nationwide moratorium on home foreclosures and evictions; money for jobs, not prisons and wars; and so on.
These demands can be promoted by:
(a) Passing resolutions in favor of the demands and sending them to the AFL-CIO with a copy to the WERC so we can widely disseminate them.
(b) Establishing committees within unions that are in agreement with the WERC campaign of fighting for strong demands.
(c) Encouraging your union or your union committee or community group to issue a statement in support of strong demands. Send these statements to the AFL-CIO along with a copy to the WERC.
(d) Organizing forums to promote October 2nd and the demands that meet our needs.
3. We want to have a WERC presence on October 2nd where we hand out fliers and march with banners that would highlight the demand for jobs to be created by means of a massive public works program, paid for by the rich, and redirecting the war budget to rebuilding America. We would also like to organize speaking tours to promote October 2nd. But all this requires money. If you could make a financial contribution and encourage others to do the same, then these proposals can be pursued. [See WERC coupon below.]
4. We also hope to attract additional endorsers to the WERC campaign and expand the interim steering committee with union activists who want to promote the demands that will meet the needs of working people. The full WERC program can be viewed at www.wercampaign.org. You could contribute to this effort by handing out WERC fliers to your coworkers and asking for endorsements if they seem receptive to our approach.
After October 2nd we want to engage in a discussion with our readers about what should be done next to fight for our demands. But more important, we want to establish ongoing WERC committees across the country that could help to bring unions and community groups together in order to mount an effective, united defense of working people.
In addition to hyper-unemployment and home foreclosures, working people are being attacked on multiple fronts: public education and social services are being slashed; the pensions of the public-sector workers are being reduced; private-sector pensions are being eliminated and replaced by 401(k)s whose value is going down, not up; Social Security is being threatened; our health-care costs are going up while services are being reduced; and so on. We need an ongoing, massive movement that represents the interests of the majority and that can effectively mount a defense of working people in the face of these attacks.
Finally, we want to emphasize that October 2nd offers an incredible opening to working people. Rather than relying on the politicians to throw us a few crumbs after they give the corporations and Wall Street everything they want, we are relying on ourselves and resorting to the tactic that won the 8-hour day, the right to unionize, Social Security, unemployment benefits, immigrant rights, and so on: massive demonstrations in the streets.
In conclusion, we want to reiterate the AFL-CIO rallying cry for October 2: “Working people can make a difference when we rely on ourselves and act collectively. We are America. And together we can make our voices heard.”
Bill Leumer and Alan Benjamin
Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign
Whereas, unemployment remains unacceptably high with an official rate over 9 percent; and
Whereas, in July 131,000 jobs were lost, which would have increased the rate of unemployment except that many who were already unemployed gave up looking; and
Whereas, home foreclosures rose 9 percent in July 2010 while personal bankruptcies increased 28 percent during the past year; and
Whereas, Congress’ recent jobs bill does not begin to address the aggravated needs of working people; and
Whereas, the federal government bailed out the banks and financial institutions that triggered this economic crisis, making them whole at taxpayers expense; and
Whereas, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has called on the government to create millions jobs to be paid for by taxing Wall Street; and
Whereas, the AFL-CIO has endorsed and is building the October 2nd demonstration in Washington, D.C. for jobs called by SEIU 1199 and the NAACP;
Therefore be it resolved, that ___________________ endorse and build the October 2nd demonstration; and
Be it therefore further resolved, that we urge that the demonstration adopt the demands for a government-sponsored public works program that would employ all who are unemployed while being paid for by Wall Street, a moratorium on home foreclosures and evictions, no cuts to Social Security, full funding for public education and social services so that there are no more layoffs in the public sector, no cuts to the pensions of public workers, no elimination of traditional pensions in the private sector, full rights for immigrants now, a single-payer government health-care option, and ending the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and redirecting the war budget to rebuilding America; and
Be it therefore finally resolved, that this resolution be sent for adoption to the State Labor Federation, the AFL-CIO, and to other local unions and central labor councils.