From the Interim National Steering Committee of the Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign
Presented by Bill Leumer
The following greeting was delivered by Bill Leumer to the May 9, 2009, “Bail Out Working People — NOT the Banks!” Teach-In in San Francisco on behalf of the Interim National Steering Committee of the Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign (WERC). The May 9 Teach-in was initiated by the San Francisco Labor Council, North Bay Labor Council, San Mateo Central Labor Council, South Bay Labor Council, Alameda County Central Labor Council and the Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign is a proud co-sponsor of the May 9 teach-in and mobilizing meeting, which we believe is an important first step in building unity among working people to defend our interests.
This economic crisis is not going away anytime soon. Foreclosures and evictions are continuing across the country, with over one million homeowners on the brink of defaulting. Unemployment is predicted to continue to rise with no end in sight. Many of us have been waging courageous battles over specific injustices. We have protested home foreclosures and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have fought for single-payer healthcare for all, and we have opposed exploitation by attempting to unionize workplaces. And the list goes on.
But while we are waging many separate battles, our economic misery stems from a single source: The very rich, who own the banks and the corporations, exert enormous power in Washington, far beyond what their small numbers warrant. They are in the process of lobbying against and virtually killing the Employee Free Choice Act that would greatly facilitate union organizing. They recently defeated a bill in the Senate that would have helped homeowners hold on to their houses by allowing bankruptcy judges to alter the mortgage loans. They lobbied intensely and succeeded in convincing the government to use our taxpayer money to bail out the same financial institutions that drove the economy over the cliff. Meanwhile, the salaries of these emperors of finance have rebounded back to their lavish pre-2007 levels, thereby laying the foundation for even more recklessness in the future.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), in a rare moment of frankness, captured the essence of our predicament: “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.” (Bill Moyers Journal, May 1, 2009)
For those who insist that President Barack Obama is steadfastly defending working people, The New York Times (May 2, 2009) offered a sobering counter-reflection in its analysis of his role in the Chrysler debacle: “This may come to be seen as Mr. Obama’s ‘Nixon in China’ moment. Just as it took a conservative Republican to open relations with the largest Communist country in the world, it took a liberal Democrat to break the U.A.W.”
We have all been fighting the same battle, but on different fields of engagement. Now is the time to unite our separate struggles — not only here in the Bay Area but nationwide — into a single movement that embraces our most pressing issues and thereby consolidates our power. In unity there is strength. Only in this way can we begin to build a massive movement that will have the power to turn things around in the interests of working people. Our country cannot survive economically, let alone socially, if it operates in the interests of the bankers and warmakers. Working people constitute the vast majority of the population. We need to ensure that our society operates in the interests of the majority.
In conclusion, we propose that these teach-ins be replicated across the country and that Workers Emergency Recovery committees be established with the aim of bringing working people together in national, massive demonstrations. For our part, we pledge to do everything in our power, in conjunction with the labor movement, to take your example and your message to cities nationwide where we have supporters. Your message is our message.
While huge mobilizations are routinely denigrated by the political pundits, they have already succeeded in forcing governments across Europe to heed the workers’ legitimate demands. Huge demonstrations allow working people to experience first-hand our fundamental unity and the power we can wield when we unite.
We call on the labor movement to return to the fighting roots that gave birth to unions, reach out to workers and community organizations, and bring massive numbers of people into the streets on Labor Day in order to press for our demands: Bail out working people, NOT the banks!
Bill Leumer and Alan Benjamin
On behalf of the Interim National Steering Committee of the Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign (WERC)
Members of the National Steering Committee of the Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign (WERC)
Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Gulf Coast Reconstruction activist
Alan Benjamin,* Executive Committee member, San Francisco Labor Council
Mike Carano, Progressive Democrats of America
Colia Clark, Veteran, Civil Rights Movement
Donna Dewitt*, President, South Carolina AFL-CIO
Pat Gowens, National organizer, Welfare Warriors
Bill Leumer,* International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 853 (ret.)
Luis Magaña, Coordinator, Organization of Farmworkers of California (OTAC)
Cynthia McKinney, Former Member of Congress, 2009 Green Party presidential candidate
Jack Rasmus, Economist, Professor at St. Mary’s College
Al Rojas, Coordinator, Frente de Mexicanos en el Exterior
Marc Rich, Representative on WERC, United Teachers of Los Angeles
Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star mother, antiwar activist
Clarence Thomas, Member, ILWU Local 10
Mark Vorpahl*, SEIU Local 49, Portland, OR
Nancy Wohlforth*, Co-Pres., Pride at Work/AFL-CIO, Vice Pres., California Federation of Labor
(* titles and organizations for id. purposes only)
For more information, please visit the WERC website at www.wercampaign.org