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Packed forum on creating jobs, economy for 99%

UPDATE: Watch TVW coverage of the forum!


SEATTLE (Nov. 14) — Representatives of labor, community groups and small business came together Monday to lay out the problems facing the 99% in this struggling economy and to offer real solutions for rebuilding our economy with a focus on creating jobs, rebuilding infrastructure and ensuring that the wealthy contribute their fair share to the needed increase in revenue.

“The 99% movement has created a moment for us to shift the narrative,” said Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson. “It is time to reject the 1 percent’s talk of deficits and budget cuts and begin a real conversation about jobs and prosperity for all.”

The event brought in more than 200 activists from all segments of society. Labor union members sat side by side with small business owners, immigrants, seniors and young activists to listen as speakers described how the weak economy decimated jobs in construction, ended assistance for the long-term unemployed and, according to Greg Devereux, Executive Director of the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28, created a virtual jihad against state employees and their collectively bargained contracts.

Susan Mason, an independent supporter of Occupy Seattle, reminded the crowd that “Wall Street can only get away with what they do because of legislation.” She would not let the crowd off the hook for simply attending the forum. Mason urged leaders in the room who know how to mobilize to reach out to the citizens energized about the Occupy movement and teach them how to mobilize even better to elect people who will stand against corporate dominance.

“Small business is not talking loud enough,” said Theo Martin, owner of Island Soul Restaurant and a member of the Main Street Business Alliance. “Everybody on my block, my community and my customers are the 99%.” He told the crowd that when his neighbors don’t have the money to spend in his restaurant, he feels the pain as does every small business owner and they should be standing up in support of this movement.

A college student, who should be in his junior year, spoke of his inability to continue classes because he can’t get a job. He was followed by a heart-wrenching tale of wage theft by unscrupulous employers who take advantage of immigrant workers in janitorial services by ignoring overtime and misclassifying their status as contractors in order to avoid paying taxes and giving adequate compensation.

Johnson told the crowd: “Forty years of class warfare waged against the people by corporate policies has legitimize the extreme wealth, and brought us to this point.” He said what’s needed now are solutions on how to reverse this trend and focus on creating a more stable, balanced society.

“It is time to stretch as a state, “said Rebecca Johnson, Government Affairs Director of the WSLC. She said that if the state had taken the course of raising revenue instead of following a cuts-only budget pattern,  and only made half the cuts to services in the last legislative session, up to 40,000 jobs could have been created.

Infrastructure bonds totaling $1.5 to $2 billion would create jobs and add revenue according to Cody Arledge of the Sheetmetal Workers. He reminded all that in 1972, in the midst of a recession, Republican Governor Dan Evans used this exact tool and not only created jobs, but included environmental changes benefitting the state at the same time.

The aerospace industry was held up as a bright spot in our state’s employment. Larry Brown of Machinists District 751, which hosted Monday’s forum at their Seattle union hall, talked of the growing industry and the need to work together with business and economic development leaders to ensure that training and workforce development is funded to train these high-skilled workers in the aerospace industry.

“We could create our own bank and make money off our own money in the state instead of giving it all to Bank of America,” said state Rep. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle), describing his proposed legislation to create a State Investment Trust.  He is currently chairing a task force, set up by House Speaker Frank Chopp, to work out the details of this opportunity  and present a proposal to the Legislature, perhaps as early as the special session that begins Nov. 28.

Patrick Nevelle from the Workers Center urged the state to invest in the production of street cars through the work of Pacifica Marine.

“We must be prepared to fight and have a clear vision where we want our state to go,” said Robby Stern of the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans as he closed the session. “If we become a real threat to those forces who like the way things are now, we can change our direction.”

At the request of participants, here are the contents of the forum packets distributed Monday:

“Getting Our Economy Back on Track” agenda

Write Your Elected Officials flier

“Put all revenue options on the table” opinion column by Tiffany Turner, small business owner

A jobless Renton worker makes the case for the 99% opinion column by Susan Wilkinson

Nov. 19 APALA Workers’ Hearing flier

Nov. 21 Social Security forum flier

More materials will be added shortly. Check back later!


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