Dear Sisters and Brothers:
Below is an invitation to an important upcoming labor-community conference at Kent State University, Ohio, on June 24-26. It is aimed at union activists and community allies who want to organize a fight-back in response to the unprecedented corporate attacks on working people. We want to especially encourage you to attend.
It is becoming increasingly obvious to many in the labor movement that relying on politicians to defend us — the so-called friends of labor — has proven to be disastrous. During the past three decades, working people have suffered a declining standard of living, yet the rich have amassed an unprecedented amount of wealth at the top, while their taxes have dropped precipitously. As Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has recently argued, we are locked in a vicious cycle: “Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth. … Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office.”
Consequently, the need for organized labor to return to its roots of the 1930s, where massive demonstrations won the formal recognition of many unions as well as significant wage gains, has become a matter of urgency. We need to stage massive demonstrations to demand that the government address the needs of working people, not the obscenely rich minority. After all, we are the majority.
This conference will not have the resources to organize massive demonstrations itself. But organized labor does have such resources. Moreover, organized labor has gone on record in support of some of the most pressing demands of working people: a federal jobs-creation program to put millions back to work that is financed by Wall Street; no cuts to Social Security or Medicare; tax the rich and the corporations to fund public education and social services.
Yet while organized labor has embraced these demands, it has not mounted the kind of aggressive fightback campaign that is needed to win these demands. We would like to see the Kent State conference culminate in an ACTION PLAN where all who attend are encouraged to return to their union locals, central labor councils, state federations, and pass resolutions that call on the AFL-CIO and Change to Win to mount massive demonstrations in major cities across the country around our demands with a clear “No Concessions, No Cuts!” orientation.
The National Nurses United has already taken up this cause, pointing to the growing inequalities in wealth that have been on the rise for the past three decades and that are undermining our democracy, our economy, and our social fabric. Why should working people make further sacrifices when we have been sacrificing for decades? Why should we be complicit in contributing to the insidious growing inequalities in wealth by making further concessions or accepting budget cuts that can be prevented by taxing the rich and redirecting the war spending to meet human needs?
We know that the pressure on organized labor officials to do something is already intense. Union members are losing ground rapidly, both in the public and private sector, and they are angry. They want their unions to come to their defense. Passing resolutions across the country calling on organized labor to put up a real and independent fight might prove to be the tipping point.
We urge all endorsers of the Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign and all who have participated in our campaigns to attend this conference and help us promote this action plan so that we can unite the labor movement and put up a real fight. The time for action is now.
Bill Leumer and Alan Benjamin,
WORKERS EMERGENCY RECOVERY CAMPAIGN
P.O. Box 40009, San Francisco, CA 94140
Tel. (415) 641-8616; fax: (415) 626-1217
NATIONAL LABOR-COMMUNITY CONFERENCE TO DEFEAT THE CORPORATE AGENDA AND FIGHT FOR A WORKING PEOPLE’S AGENDA
Working people across the country — from Wisconsin and Ohio to New York, Oregon, and California — are facing unprecedented attacks by corporations and the rich with the help of the federal, state and local politicians that they fund.
The corporate agenda is clear: It is to bust unions and cut workers’ pay and benefits — both in the private and public sectors. It is to erode and privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It is to dismantle the public sector and social services by denying funds for job creation, education, health care, environmental protection, and rebuilding the infrastructure. It is to ensure that taxes on the wealthy are constantly lowered while the bite on workers and the poor is constantly increased. It is to perpetuate U.S. wars and occupations whenever it serves the interests of the multinationals. It is to divide the working class by race, gender, national origin, religion, and sexual orientation. It is also to limit and restrict constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties. The list goes on.
In state capitals, communities and workplaces across the country, workers are fighting back. But if we’re going to be successful in pushing back the attacks on collective bargaining, stopping the budget cuts and concessions, creating jobs, and defending social services and education, we need to build unity within our movement, including forging stronger ties with labor’s allies: communities of color, students and youth, single-payer advocates, environmentalists, antiwar activists, immigrant rights supporters, and other progressive forces.
Relying on politicians to defend us — the so-called “friends of labor” — has proven to be disastrous. During the past three decades, working people have suffered a dramatic decline in their standard of living while the rich have amassed an unprecedented amount of wealth at the top, regardless of which of the major parties was running the government. We have had every combination imaginable: Republicans occupying the White House with a majority in Congress, Democrats occupying the White House with a majority in Congress, or some kind of “divided government.” But in each case the result for working people has been the same: conditions got worse for workers while the corporations prospered even more. Why should we continue this vicious cycle?
The working class has the power to put an end to this situation. And as the debate over the debt and the deficit intensifies, the need has never been greater for an organized campaign to demand “No Cuts, No Concessions!” whether in regard to social programs or workers’ wages and benefits. We say place the burden for solving the financial crises squarely where it belongs: on the rich and the corporations. They caused the crisis, let them pay for it!
The Emergency Labor Network (ELN) was initiated earlier this year at a historic meeting of 100 union leaders and activists from around the country. Join us June 24–26, 2011 at Kent State University in Ohio for a national labor-community conference to spur the campaign to build a more militant fight-back movement and to launch a national campaign for an alternative agenda for working people. Together we can move forward on both fronts.