By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Public Employee Press, January 2010
District Council 37, AFSCME, AFL-CIO
With the unemployment rate at 10 percent, workers are growing increasingly anxious over the disappearance of secure jobs with decent wages and benefits.
“Good jobs are the central economic issue of our times,” said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts. “The high rate of unemployment is a wake-up call about the need to make the economy work better for ordinary people, not just the bankers and Wall Street elite.”
With a rebound of stock prices and modest economic growth, many mainstream economists are saying the Great Recession may be ending. But norecession is over until working people who want a job are back at work.
The jobs crisis facing our country is undeniable:
· one in five Americans is unemployed or underemployed, or has given up hope and stopped looking for work;
· only one job is available for every six Americans seeking work;
· unemployment now lasts for an average of six months, the longest since the 1930s, and
· when workers find a new job, it usually pays less than their old one.
Trade unionists, academics and religious and community activists gathered at the Interchurch Center on Riverside Drive Nov. 13 and at DC 37 Nov. 14 for a national conference on jobs. The National Jobs for All Coalition, a full-employment advocacy group, organized the conference with the support of DC 37 and other unions and organizations.
DC 37 Assistant Associate Director Henry Garrido served on the conference steering committee and Roberts spoke on a panel. She described the union’s fight to help low-wage workers, including DC 37 members in the city’s Jobs Training Program for former welfare recipients, as well as exploited employees of city contractors.
Moved by the urgency of the jobs crisis, participants pledged to organize a nationwide movement to fight for decent jobs with an eye toward a march on Washington in 2010. “Change will not come about without a mass movement,” said Coalition Chair Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, who heads the Ph.D. program in Social Work at Adelphi University.
Reserve army of labor
Robert Pollin, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, underscored the importance of steady work for individuals and the country, noting that people derive their sense of self-worth from their jobs and the government relies on their taxes to fund federal services. High unemployment, he said, can devastate individuals and families and pit worker against worker in the competition for jobs among the “reserve army of the unemployed.”
Pollin said the current jobs crisis is rooted in the abandonment of the national commitment to full employment that Franklin D. Roosevelt and Democratic presidents promoted during the New Deal and through the 1960s. In the 1970s, neoliberal policymakers abandoned the goal of full employment to focus on controlling inflation to protect wealthy investors while conservatives pushed to cut taxes, reduce government services and deregulate the labor and financial markets. These policies have caused greater economic inequality and undermined union power. Wages used to rise in tandem with workers’ productivity, but that hasn’t been true in the last three decades.
During the expansion of the 1960s, the median income of middle-income families rose 33 percent, adjusted for inflation. But in the “boom” of the early 2000s, their income rose only 1.6 percent. If the minimum wage had kept up with productivity over the past 30 years, it would be $19 an hour rather than $7.25.
President Ronald Reagan smashed the air traffic controllers’ strike in 1981 and intensified the assault on unions, whose membership since then has dropped from 22 percent of the labor force to less than 12 percent.
Speakers and participants at the conference had several suggestions for addressing the jobs crisis:
· shifting resources from the military sector of the economy toward clean energy, education and health care, which produce more jobs (see chart);
· supporting the Employee Free Choice Act to increase unionization;
· fighting for living wage laws to improve opportunities for less-educated workers
· raising the federal minimum wage;
· extending unemployment benefits, and
· increasing aid to state and local governments to preserve jobs and services threatened by the loss of tax revenues.
Speaker Glen Ford, executive editor of the online Black Agenda Report, said it makes little sense to talk about creating jobs without first addressing employment discrimination and the high incarceration rate of Black men.
At a forum Dec. 4 at the Murphy Institute in New York City, panelists Steven C. Pitts, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and David Jones, president of the Community Service Society of New York, said raising union representation and rebuilding an alliance with the white progressive community are critical to creating good jobs in the Black community.
With official employment affecting 15.4 million people, hidden employment hitting 15.3 million and the nation’s working poor estimated at 30 million, people at the Nov. 13-14 conference called for a jobs program modeled after the New Deal and urged the Obama administration to carry out a second stimulus package. Given the private sector’s failure to create jobs, conferees generally felt it’s up to the government to solve the jobs crisis.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan protected or created up to 1.6 million jobs. Many of those jobs are in the public sector, where tax revenue has fallen because of the weak economy.
On Dec. 3, the Obama administration held a jobs summit at the White House. Obama told the gathering that the administration would consider “every demonstrably good idea” for job creation. But he said that while government can play a “critical role” in establishing economic conditions for growth, “ultimately, true economic recovery is only going to come from the private sector.”
Coinciding with Obama’s jobs summit, the labor movement issued its own plan. The AFL-CIO called for extending assistance to unemployed workers; rebuilding public schools, energy systems and roads; increasing aid to cities and states to maintain jobs and services; supporting community-based job initiatives, and directing unused funds from the bank bailout to help small- and medium-sized business get credit.
In a talk at the Brookings Institution on Dec. 8, Obama outlined a series of proposals to help small businesses and promote jobs. These included tapping the unused $200 billion in the bank bailout for jobs creation, rebates to homeowners who make energy-saving weatherization improvements, business tax incentives and increasing stimulus plan spending on public infrastructure.
“The president really does understand the urgency of job creation,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka after the White House summit. “He said it numerous times: jobs, jobs, jobs.”
[ Note: this article appears in the January 2010 issue of the Public Employee Press ]
Monday, December 28, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
December 3, 2009
Dear Jobs Advocate,
Our November 13-14 National Conference to Create Living Wage Jobs, Meet Human Needs and Sustain the Environment greatly exceeded our expectations. Over 125 attendees came representing over 50 organizations. The diversity of attendees was as impressive as their numbers. People came from Atlanta, Chicago, California and many points in between. Participating organizations spanned the broad range of constituencies we need to mobilize to achieve the conference goals of jobs for all at a living wage. The religious community, labor, community non-profits and employment policy experts all participated.
The passion that the speakers, panelists and audience members expressed at the conference was contagious. Equally striking to us was the widespread agreement on the essential components of a jobs program: that besides promoting a decent, living wage job for all who want to work, it should be long-term, address the shortfall of social investment and the lack of the human services needed to build a good society, and include a significant role for the public sector.
So, where do we go from here?
We -- and attendees like you -- have lots of ideas. There have been suggestions that similar events be held in other parts of the country so that those who came to NYC can kindle the excitement about a jobs program in their own region. Others are urging development of legislative proposals as the basis of a national political campaign. Today, December 3, President Obama is holding a jobs summit at the White House that offers an opportunity to advance the jobs agenda into the national policy debate And there is talk of a mass mobilization for jobs in D.C. sometime in late 2010 or early 2011.
All of these – and more – ideas are good ones. We are excited by the willingness of so many to stay involved on this issue. We are writing to ask if you would continue to work with us on the goal of achieving living wage jobs for all of our people. We envision an ongoing grassroots and national advocacy network, led by a Continuation Committee representing the array of groups and constituencies that were with us in NYC. This Continuation Committee would have several functions:
Communication & Coordination -- the Continuation Committee will provide a vehicle for sharing information among us on the wide range of local and state initiatives on jobs, and provide a means to coordinate between different locales to increase the impact of actions that have been initiated in one place and that others find useful.
Organizing and Outreach – The Committee would also work to recruit additional religious, labor, community and policy organizations to form an ongoing national advocacy network that supports public job creation and social investment.
Tools Development and Resource Center -- The Continuation Committee would also lead efforts to compile resources resources and ideas that could be drawn upon by groups around the country in their work. A variety of proposals were made to carry out local "demonstration projects" to raise the visibility of the jobs crisis and engage community members. We can create and disseminate simple tools such as local unemployment report cards, resolutions for state and local legislatures, guides to organizing community hearings and "truth commissions," community jobs needs assessments, etc.
Strategy Development, Resource Mobilization, and Organizing -- Finally, and most ambitiously, the Committee could be charged with developing a political strategy around the living wage jobs for all agenda, and developing a political campaign on this issue that is strong and vibrant at the grassroots, but fully national in its scope. The committee will also need to secure funding and mobilize resources to support the proposed organizing campaign, and ensure we are able to do broad outreach to the many affected communities and groups who are concerned about jobs issues.
We have revised our Conference Call to Action to accommodate the new, ongoing organizing focus outlined above. We therefore have four requests:
1. Will you please endorse the revised Call to Action, so we may continue to list your name/organization as a supporter of the proposed advocacy network?
2. Please indicate whether you would be willing to serve on the network’s Continuation Committee and/or Steering Group, and any particular areas you can help with, such as organizing and outreach, convening local or regional meetings or conferences, public policy analysis, and/or fundraising.
3. Please recommend 2-3 other organizations or individuals you think should be invited to endorse the Call to Action and join the network.
4. Please share any additional thoughts and ideas that you have for how we can follow up on the conference, and continue momentum toward development of a powerful social movement for economic renewal. (NOTE: if you have additional drafting suggestions or recommendations for additional points or policy recommendations to include in the Call to Action, please let us know that as well.)
Bill Barclay, Chicago Political Economy Group
Chuck Bell, Conference Chair, and Vice Chair, National Jobs for All Coalition
Larry Bresler, Executive Director, Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign*
Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Senior Pastor Emeritus, Riverside Church of New York, Pres., Healing of the Nations Foundation
Barbara George, Healing of the Nations Foundation
Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, Chair, National Jobs for All Coalition
Logan Martinez, Miami Valley Full Employment Council/Organize Ohio (Dayton, OH)
Bill Quigley, Legal Director, Center for Constitutional Rights
Annie Rawlings, Associate Executive Presbyter for Social Witness, Presbytery of New York City*
Elce Redmond, Organizer, South Austin Community Coalition (Chicago, IL)
Melvin Rothenberg, Chicago Political Economy Group
Rev. Marcel Welty (New York, NY)
* Organization listed for identification purposes only
Please Endorse the Call to Action by sending your name, affilliation and contact information to JobsConference@njfac.org
National Network to Create Living Wage Jobs for All, Meet Human Needs & Sustain the Environment [ working name ]
CALL TO ACTION [ Updated 12/04/09]
Our country is in the throes of an economic crisis—the most severe since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unemployment is at the disaster level. And even before the onset of our current, deep recession, chronic unemployment, low and stagnant wages, myriad unmet needs and unprecedented environmental degradation were endemic.Current Job Crisis* Nearly 31 million workers fully or partially jobless (October 2009)* Most rapid job less of any downturn -- and the highest percentage of long-term unemployed workers --since the Great Depression* 8 million fewer jobs in the U.S. economy since the onset of the recession.
* High unemployment expected to persist, even if the economy "recovers."* Many of the long-term unemployed will lose benefits, their savings, their homes and moreWeak Stimulus By the Administration’s own estimate, the economic stimulus package enacted in February 2009 will only make up for a fraction of the millions of jobs lost since the recession began. Nor will the stimulus stem the continuing job hemorrhage.
The health and well-being of workers and communities suffer greatly when there is inadequate availability of living wage jobs. In addition, the current official high unemployment rate of over 10% is exceedingly costly to the economy as a whole, costing $1 trillion or more annually in output of goods and services. As former Nobel Prize winner Robert Eisner has pointed out, a nation that tolerates high levels of unemployment is "literally throwing away its potential output." The "Good Old Days"Even before the recent economic meltdown, 5 million or more women and men were officially jobless; hidden unemployment afflicted many millions more; and poverty wages were rampant. Inequality reigned, our infrastructure was crumbling, and human services fell far short of needs.
We must not go back to those "Good Old Days." Instead, we should be guided by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933): "We cannot be content, no matter how high the general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people … is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure."
Real ReformNow is the time to organize and mobilize to create a just economy.
We call for:
Establishment of a long-term, permanent federal jobs program, leading to the legal right to a living wage job.
Creation of millions of new, publicly-financed living-wage jobs in education and human services, clean energy and environmental conservation, and infrastructure development and repair.
Priority measures to target new jobs to employ structurally unemployed and underemployed workers, including people living in economically depressed communities, young people, people of color, people with disabilities, ex-offenders, and immigrants, among others.
Guaranteed income support for those who are unemployed, unable to work, and/or doing vital work in the home (including extension of unemployment benefits, an end to TANF time limits, and support for single adults living without adequate income)
Continuation and expansion of federal assistance to ailing state governments, to preserve essential services and prevent further job loss in local communities.
Comprehensive protection of workers’ labor and social rights, including the right to organize, form trade unions and bargain collectively; the right to equal opportunity, with vigorous enforcement of laws and regulations relating to unfair discrimination in hiring and employment against women, people of color and other minorities; worker safety and health; rights to paid sick leave and vacations; and decent working conditions and quality of work life, including autonomy on the job.
Development of industrial and trade policies to promote comprehensive recovery of the manufacturing and services sectors, and other, complementary policies to promote full employment, community economic stability, environmental sustainability, and a fair global economic system.
Fair financing for economic renewal through 1) discontinuing or not renewing the Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy taxpayers; 2) reducing military spending to genuine defense needs, and redirecting the savings to the civilian economy 3) enacting a financial speculation tax on short-term securities transactions; and 4) recapturing federal revenue as more Americans return to work and pay taxes, and the devastating financial and social costs of unemployment are avoided.
Comprehensive measures to ensure public accountability and transparency for the jobs program and public investments, including 1) racial, gender, geographic and social equity in program spending and results and 2) establishment of a national employment accounting office to measure the impact and benefits.
To achieve these goals, we will work together to
1. Document unmet public needs for jobs, infrastructure and public services
2. Inform and educate our communities about those needs, and how can they be addressed through our proposed program
3. Organize a strong, vibrant social movement to inspire grassroots action and arouse the conscience of the public
4. Encourage policy organizations to support this program, and related initiatives to expand availability of living wage jobs, and protect worker rights
5. Develop an effective national advocacy network by reaching out to a wide range of labor, religious, nonprofit and community organizations, and building coalitions and alliances
6. Mobilize regional and national demonstrations in support of this program
7. Design and advocate comprehensive federal legislation to achieve the right to employment at living wages, and develop alliances with members of Congress and other public officials who will support these measures
8. Provide ongoing public oversight of the development and implementation of our proposed program
YES!! I/we endorse the Call to Action and Join the Network to Create Living-Wage Jobs for All, Meet Human Needs, & Sustain the Environment
____ Individual Endorsement
___ List organization for affiliation only
___ Do not list organization
____ Organizational Endorsement
_____ YES, I would be willing to serve on the Continuation Committee
_____ YES, I would be willing to serve on the Continuation’s Committee’s Steering Group
_____ YES, I would be willing to serve on a committee or workgroup on:
______Please send the Call to Action to the following individuals/organizations:
Please return to: JobsConference@njfac.org
Conference Organizing Committee
c/o National Jobs for All Coalition / CIPA
777 United Nations Plaza, Suite 3C
New York, NY 10017