We are disappointed to inform you that a Solidarity Day III event where the labor movement would mobilize and demand that the government institute a massive jobs-creation program is not going to take place — for now.
Unfortunately, the top officials of the AFL-CIO failed to move on this proposal at its special meeting of state federations and central labor councils in Orlando, Florida, on April 23-25, 2010.
We did, however, manage to create a significant groundswell where numerous labor bodies across the nation passed resolutions in support of such a Solidarity Day III march and rally in Washington, DC. These resolutions and the many endorsements by leading trade unionists were a reflection of the widespread suffering of working people who are bearing the brunt of the current economic crisis through layoffs, furloughs, home foreclosures, loss of health insurance, and so on.
Deep discontent among working people has been spreading and intensifying. It erupted in California on March 4 when tens of thousands of working people and many unions joined students and teacher unionists in demonstrations to defend public education and social services. In Oregon, despite strong opposition from corporations, the unions succeeded in leading the struggle to pass progressive taxation, forcing higher taxes on the corporations and the wealthy. In both cases, working people demonstrated an eagerness to stand up and fight for their own interests. And they represent a huge reservoir of strength that can be tapped.
While the wealthy use their money to lobby politicians, ordinary working people have historically turned to organizing huge protests to press for their needs. Accordingly, such protests served as a vital tool in winning union recognition in the 1930s. They were key to the success of the Civil Rights movement, they contributed to ending the U.S. war in Vietnam. They have helped to defend immigrant rights, and they have brought down governments around the world. Their power emanates from their size: When they are huge, it becomes unambiguously clear that they represent the desires of the majority of society.
Nevertheless, most top officials of the labor movement have rejected — for now — the option of organizing a massive demonstration for jobs. They view themselves as acting pragmatically by navigating through what they perceive as a permanent configuration of political alignments. In particular, most union officials look to the Democratic Party with the hope of winning some benefits, and they do not want to jeopardize the prospect of modest gains. Horrified at the possibility of inflicting the slightest injury on the Democrats, labor officials are avoiding organizing large demonstrations that would pressure the Obama government into creating jobs. They fear that the Republicans will be quick to take advantage of fissures in the relationship between labor and the Democrats.
The problem with this strategy, however, lies in the duplicitous role of the Democratic Party. On the one hand, it claims to be a friend of labor and has been quick to accept hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from unions each year. On the other hand, it receives far greater contributions from corporations, which have been adamant in insisting that labor occupy a far subordinate position in this unsavory triangle.
President Obama has received more money from financial institutions than any other sector of the economy. Consequently, administrations, whether headed by Democrats or Republicans, have allowed banks to engage in predatory loans and charge interest rates amounting to usury when people have overdrawn their bank accounts; they have allowed taxes on corporations and the wealthy to incessantly slide downwards, thereby squeezing public education and social services; they have given corporations a free hand to proceed recklessly so as to cause environmental catastrophes; they have permitted corporations to keep wages low in order to push profits higher; and they have enabled the wealthy to become wealthier than ever before.
Currently, the Obama administration has failed to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, even though it had a super-majority in Congress, it refused to consider single-payer health care, it dropped any form of a public health care option, despite strong labor support, it applauded the mass firing of teachers in Rhode Island, and it is supporting charter schools, which constitute a direct attack on unions.
In fact, never before in the history of this country have so few had so much at the expense of so many. And it raises the question: For how long will huge amounts of wealth belonging to a small minority of the population who enjoy untold luxuries be allowed to prevail over the basic needs of the working people of this country, who constitute the vast majority?
Worse still: The economic crisis for working people is far from over. Unemployment remains high, public education and social services continue to be gutted, and the enormous federal government budget deficit is looming in the background. President Obama has already established his deficit-reduction committee, headed by Republican Allan Simpson, and there has been incessant chatter about reducing Social Security benefits, which constitute the most modest lifeline for millions of Americans. The banks, the corporations, and the wealthy are pushing hard to compel the Obama government to protect their privileges at our expense. The labor movement will be forced to stand up and fight. Otherwise, what little we have will be taken from us.
We are confident that the Solidarity Day III campaign is not at an end but at the beginning. The organized labor movement will be compelled to mobilize working people to defend their standard of living. And the only effective means at its disposal will be to establish a broad united coalition, led by labor, to bring people into the streets to demand the creation of 11 million jobs while taxing Wall Street to pay for them, as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has proposed.
By refusing to rely on the politicians and by establishing an independent movement of labor, working people will be in a position to reach out and unite the majority of the population so that in solidarity we can create a powerful movement to fight for our common interests.
Bill Leumer and Alan Benjamin
Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign
Updated list of initial endorsers of Call for a Labor-Sponsored Demonstration in Washington for Jobs, Peace and Justice
– California Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
– South Carolina State, AFL-CIO
– San Francisco Labor Council
– South Bay Labor Council (San Jose, Calif.)
– San Mateo Central Labor Council
– Hartford (CT) Central Labor Council
– Troy (NY) Central Labor Council
– Labor For Single Payer Campaign
– AFT Local 1021 (Los Angeles)
– Council of New Jersey State College Locals (CNJSCL), AFT-AFL-CIO
– Executive Council, AFT Missouri
– National Jobs for All Coalition
– California Peace and Freedom Party
– Harlem Tenants Council
– Harlem Antiwar Coalition
– Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice
– Ohio State Labor Party
– Railroad Workers United
– Painters and Dry Wall workers Local 93 (Bay Area)
– Prosperity Agenda
– Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report)
– Donna Smith, American SiCKO, American Patients United
– Harry Kelber (Labor Educator)
– Sharon Black (Organizer, Bail Out the People Movement)
– Monadel Herzallah (Arab American Union Members Council)
– Andy Griggs (UTLA member)
– Don Bechler (chair, Single Payer Now!)
– Larry Duncan* (Labor Beat-Chicago)
– Allan Fisher (AFT 2121)
– Fred Hirsch (South Bay Labor Council)
– Jerry Gordon (Ohio State Labor Party)
– Bill Balderston (Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice)
– Chris Silvera, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Union Local 808
– Kevin Zeese, Executive Director, Prosperity Agenda
– Chris Driscoll,* Recording Secretary, Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics
– Alan L. Maki,* Director of Organizing Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council
– Joe Tonan,* Claremont Faculty Association, a Chapter of the California Teachers Association
– Gregory W. Paquin,* Business Manager, Native American Indian Labor Union #12
WERC Interim National Committee Members:
– 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, 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 & org. for id. only)
WORKERS EMERGENCY RECOVERY CAMPAIGN
P.O. Box 40009, San Francisco, CA 94140
Tel. (415) 641-8616; fax: (415) 626-1217