‘15 MILLION AMERICANS ARE LOSING EVERYTHING’ – Machinists call for jobs stimulus


THE president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) cited the unemployment numbers for the month of July as hard evidence that an additional job stimulus program is needed.

‘The high-fives are premature,’ said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. ‘Fifteen million jobless Americans cannot cheer these numbers. They are losing everything – their health, their homes and their hope. They need jobs now, not two or three years from now.’

Buffenbarger has repeatedly called for an updated version of programmes employed by Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, including funding for job creation programs such as the Works Progress Administration.

In a three-page letter to President Obama, Buffenbarger also urged tax credits for businesses and additional funding for skills training.

‘Economists may tout today’s unemployment numbers,’ said Buffenbarger. ‘But to me, they send a cold chill down my spine. For America’s jobless, I fear the worst is yet to come.’

The IAM is among the nation’s largest industrial trade unions, representing nearly 700,000 active and retired members under more than 5,000 contracts in aerospace, transportation, shipbuilding and defence-related industries.

The SEIU trade union President Andy Stern has called on US Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue to explain why his organisation supports outsourcing of American jobs.

‘It’s unconscionable that, at a time when most Americans are consumed with fear of losing their jobs, their healthcare and their homes, the nation’s top advocate for corporate lobbyists is actively working to make those fears become reality,’ said Stern.

‘It sounds like a nightmare, but it’s true: Tom Donohue and his lobbyist buddies are working overtime to kill legislation to help workers, like the Employee Free Choice Act, while trying to hide his support for sending their jobs overseas.’

In 2004, Donohue argued that ‘there are legitimate values in outsourcing,’ projecting that the US should outsource as many as four million jobs in the coming several years. Donohue told CNN.

He said ‘There are legitimate values in outsourcing – not only jobs, but work – to gain technical experience and benefit we don’t have here, to lower the price of products, which means more and more of them are brought into the United States, [and] used, for example, I.T. . . . [to], create more and more jobs.

‘But the bottom line is that we outsource very few jobs in relation to the size of our economy. We employ – American companies employ 140 million Americans.

‘They provide healthcare for 160 million Americans. They provide training in terms of 40 billion a year.

‘The outsourcing deal over three or four or five years and the two or three sets of numbers are only going to be, you know, maybe two, maybe three million jobs, maybe four.’

In June, the Department of Labor reported a national unemployment rate of 9.5 per cent, up from 5.6 per cent just one year ago.

Of these lost jobs, a shocking number have been sent overseas. In 2007 alone, the US lost 5.6 million jobs as a result of the US non-oil trade deficit, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute. 70 per cent of these jobs were in the manufacturing sector.

‘Plain and simple, American workers can’t afford more of the US Chamber’s policies,’ Stern added.

The US Chamber has led the fight against the Employee Free Choice Act, launching a deep-pocketed misinformation campaign. In 2008, the Chamber and other corporate lobbying groups spent $50 million opposing Employee Free Choice, while the anti-union front group, Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, has committed $200 million overall to defeat the bill. Chamber Vice-President Randel Johnson called the bill’s passage ‘Armageddon’.

According to a study by the Center for American Progress, the legislation could pump as much as $49 billion annually into state and local economies at a time when they need it most. Forty of the nation’s leading economists, including four Nobel laureates, have come out in favour of the legislation, arguing that it would help the economy.

Meanwhile the campaign against the health reforms that President Obama wishes to bring in has reached the level of hysteria.

In the past several days, loud, shouting and rowdy mobs have been disrupting congressional town hall meetings across the country. They’re organised by far-right and corporate backed anti-healthcare reform and anti-government groups.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka says there’s one main reason for the mob action.

‘Major healthcare reform is closer than ever to passage and it is no secret that special interests want to weaken or block it.’

In an AFL-CIO statement Trumka notes that the America’s politics are ‘passionate, heartfelt and often loud.’

The statement continues: ‘But that is not what the corporate-funded mobs are engaging in when they show up to disrupt town hall meetings held by members of Congress.

‘Mob rule is not democracy. People have a democratic right to express themselves and our elected leaders have a right to hear from their constituents—not organised thugs whose sole purpose is to shut down the conversation and attempt to scare our leaders into inaction.

‘What is being lost in this ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ media coverage, is that that the majority of Americans say:

• The U.S. healthcare system is badly broken and costs too much.

• The health insurance industry has far too much influence on how healthcare is delivered.

• Too many people have no coverage at all.

‘At most of these town halls, the large majority want real discussion about healthcare reform. And union and healthcare advocates are helping ensure that happens.

‘For example, yesterday in Indiana, President Obama was scheduled to deliver a talk on the economy, green jobs and healthcare at a Wakarusa RV plant.

‘Union and healthcare activists went to work, knowing protesters were set to be bused in to line the streets by the plant and grab headlines.

‘Union members and our allies called, sent e-mail messages and texted local unions and activists with the message ‘It’s time to fight back for healthcare reform.’

‘Todd Anderson, AFL-CIO Midwest regional director, reported that as many as 1,000 union members showed up, outnumbering the teabaggers [disrupters] by 10 to one.

‘Our allies at healthcare for America Now! have outlined a simple strategy activists can follow to make sure healthcare events set for the congressional recess are not hijacked by screaming teabaggers.

‘It includes building turnout, making sure folks know what tactics to expect from the protesters, making contact with the media and more tips.

‘Throughout the congressional recess—the House is out now and the Senate leaves Washington at the end of the week—the AFL-CIO union movement is working with allies to ensure big turnouts for town hall and community forums with House and Senate lawmakers.

‘We’ve got to let them know the other side may be loud and angry and obnoxious, but they are not the majority. This is no time to back down on key healthcare reform principles, including:

• A strong public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers and give working families a choice of private or public coverage.

• Shared responsibility, including an employer “play or pay” provision.

• Fair financing that does not tax health benefits.

• Cost savings.

• An end to insurance company abuses.’