Joined at a Labor Day press event by workers from Missouri, Ohio, New Hampshire and Minnesota, Trumka pledged to amplify the voices of working families in a public debate dominated by partisanship and goals defined by Tea Party Republicans and their corporate backers. Without a voice in the political process, he said, working men and women and their core concerns — notably, creating an economy that works for everyone — are more easily ignored.
“The AFL-CIO is responding aggressively, with innovative tactics to build a movement for the next generation that speaks to and for all working people — around jobs, politics and the workplace,” he said.
“Working people have a powerful voice when they band together,” he continued. “And now more than ever, working people need to have their voices heard politically. Only together can we reinvigorate our democracy.”
The event focused on the seriousness of the jobs crisis and its impact on all working people. Leann Bosquez, a jobless Minnesotan and Working America member, said “I feel that employers are looking more for college education than a proven track record. I’m either overqualified or undereducated. It’s hard on the self-esteem. In my career life, I’ve always been ambitious. I’ve always jumped in with both feet and worked with a team to get things going. It’s clear – more must be done to create jobs.”
In addressing the need for solutions to the jobs crisis, Trumka said, “This is the time for boldness. This is the moment that working people will judge President Obama: Will he propose policies that fundamentally move us away economic extremism? Will he propose solutions that are on the scale necessary to address the jobs crisis?”
The AFL-CIO has developed a 6-point jobs plan to address the current jobs crisis:
- Rebuilding America’s schools, roads, ports, airways, and energy systems.
- Reviving U.S. manufacturing and stop exporting good jobs overseas.
- Putting people to work doing work that needs to be done.
- Helping state and local governments avoid more layoffs and cutbacks of public services.
- Helping fill the massive shortfall of consumer demand by extending unemployment benefits and keeping homeowners in their homes.
- Reforming Wall Street so that it helps Main Street create jobs.
Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler detailed the impact of the jobs crisis on young people. “Without more investment in job creation, young people will suffer in the future as a result of stunted opportunities in the present,” Shuler said. “But the next generation is not just going to sit back while their opportunities are frittered away by the current generation of corporate elites. Young people are making a difference all across the globe—from Egypt to Wisconsin.”
Several of the workers responded to recent attacks on public employees and other working people. BJ Simmons-Talley, a bus driver and AFSCME member from Ohio, said, “I love my job. I love working with kids. I’ve been watching Gov. Kasich. He’s attacking teachers, police, fire fighters, service workers. All the people who give back to their communities. We don’t want to be rich – we just want to be able to retire, to have health care, to feed our family, to clothe our kids, to send them to school – and to make sure they have jobs when they come out of school.”
Steve Soule, an IBEW member and technician from New Hampshire, said, ““I voted for New Hampshire Republicans – it’s a pretty independent and small government state. But I’ve been involved with fighting against the right to work in New Hampshire. They’re wrong about it.” Soule continued, “Being in a union has allowed me to have a family and a job with security and benefits. I’ve been a union member all my life. I have the ability to sit down with my employer in a professional manner and negotiate – without a union that doesn’t happen. It’s a good thing for me and a good thing for my community.”
Executive Vice-President Arlene Holt Baker addressed new voter suppression initiatives from over-reaching state legislatures and governors. “It is shocking to see a largely unnoticed push to create a voting population more reminiscent of the 1950s. This year, state legislators in 34 states – nearly all Republicans aided by their millionaire backers – introduced voter ID laws under the guise of preventing voter fraud,” said Holt Baker. “The AFL-CIO is committed to working with our partners in the civil rights and the voting rights community to fight these partisan attempts to disenfranchise a particular segment of our voting age population with their solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Dawn Jennewein, a CWA member from Missouri, has been active in holding politicians accountable and calling for job-creating solutions. She said, “A lot of these politicians are okay with attacking working people because it doesn’t hurt their bottom line. But that’s why I speak out and attend rallies – because if we don’t fight for our future, our kids and our grandkids, then they won’t have anything. We have to fight for them and for future generations. The retirees before us fought for what we have today.”