THE American trade union federation, the AFL-CIO, is this week launching a ‘Make Wall Street Pay’ national campaign in protest at soaring unemployment in the United States.
The campaign coincides with a 400-mile march by Californian teachers to fight for the future of public education in the West Coast state.
Launching their campaign, the AFL-CIO said: ‘the union movement and our allies are taking our fight for good jobs now to the biggest Wall Street banks whose reckless greed has gone a long way to wreck the US economy and kill American jobs.
‘From March 15-26, working people will hold rallies and demonstrations at branches of the Big Six Wall Street banks – Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup, Wachovia-Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley – across the country.
‘They will tell the banks: “I Am Not Your ATM” and “Make Wall Street Pay for Creating New Jobs’’.’
The AFL-CIO estimates that since the ‘Great Recession’ started, at least eight million US workers have been thrown out of their jobs.
‘One worker says she lost four jobs during the past seven years.
‘Another saw his unemployment insurance (UI) benefits evaporate “due to Senator Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) callous filibuster of a UI extension last month”.
‘Those are just two of the personal stories jobless workers and others have shared at the AFL-CIO’s Good Jobs Now site.
‘The Big Six’s reckless greed played the major role in wrecking the US economy and killing American jobs.’
The workers sharing their stories have seen first-hand the damage left behind.
Mary from Illinois writes that the nation’s jobs crisis has batttered her life and ruined her future.
‘I have suffered through four terminations of various kinds in a seven year timeframe.
‘It is so hard to get a job these days and so easy for employers to let us go.
‘In addition to the obvious destruction of a person’s finances, I have struggled with a lot of anxiety after the last two terminations.
‘My future is ruined as well as the present because I have not been in a pension plan or 401(k) for the last seven years and have not earned enough to save in my own IRA.’
Last December, Eddy, an Ohio UAW member, was made redundant after 17 years.
‘There are those at the top making the decisions that know nothing of what it takes to make the product, or the people that make the product,’ he said.
‘We are just a number, but not the number that they are interested in.
‘Corporate America knows only one number, the number that drives their greed!
‘When corporations know that they can move a company’s operations to a third world country and make more for less, they have dollar signs in their eyes and it does not matter who they go through to get there or what they leave in the wake of their decisions.’
Terry in Florida says he and his wife face a grim future after both were laid off from the same firm.
‘I worked for a large corporation in senior health care. They laid me off a week before Christmas . . . My wife was laid off by the same company six months before.
‘The company is making more money than they ever have but wants more.
‘I know, I see the financials. What’s up with that?
‘At this rate we will be homeless by summer, no house and no car unless God helps us out. Please pray for us.’
Mike, a member of the Operating Engineers (IUOE) in Ohio, relied on unemployment benefits as construction projects faltered.
He said: ‘I’m 51 years old and unemployed.
‘I’ve worked 15 weeks in the last two years.
‘They just cut off my unemployment benefits because some high and mighty senator decided he doesn’t like what’s being done with the extension on unemployment benefits to America’s unemployed.
‘He still has a job, health care and a pretty good retirement.
‘What about the rest of America? How do we pay our bills? What do we eat? How do we pay for our medications that we need? Guess it’s not his problem, is it?’
Daily rallies and demonstrations are being staged across America, from Seattle to Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, California teachers are continuing their 400-mile ‘March for California’s Future’, from Bakersfield to Sacramento.
The marchers are demanding:
• ‘Reclaim the promise of quality public education and services.
• ‘Rebuild a state government that works for everyone.
• ‘Restore fair and equitable taxes to fund California’s future.
• ‘Register and engage voters.
The ‘March for California’s Future’ is bringing attention to a crisis in public education.
More than 22,000 teachers and school employees across California recently received pink slips –
notices that they may be laid off if the Legislature rubber stamps the governor’s ‘anti-education budget.
‘Our state budget crisis has forced districts to lay off thousands of teachers over the past few years,’ said Jack O’Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction.
‘The governor has proposed cutting another $2.4 billion from public education.
‘While the education community opposes these cuts, our schools are forced to prepare for this potential outcome by issuing a massive wave of potential layoff notices.’
San Diego City College professor Jim Miller, who teaches English and Labor Studies at San Diego City College, is taking part in the 400-mile march.
He said: ‘I am marching for my son, Walt, a kindergartener at McKinley Elementary School in San Diego.
‘I don’t want his class size to get even bigger and his education to suffer as a result.
‘I don’t think the families of children in public schools should have to pay out of pocket for arts, music, language, library materials, sports and other essential parts of their children’s education.
‘I want to be able to afford to put my son through college without destroying my retirement, and I want the same for my neighbours.
‘I want my students at City College to succeed and not have to worry about dropping out of school for economic reasons.
‘I want the kids of the farm workers in the towns I’ll be marching through in the Central Valley (where the median annual income is $5,000 in some places) to have a better future, not to have the fate of a pauper.’
He warned: ‘We are slamming shut the doors of opportunity and gutting our infrastructure.
‘All of this is being done in the service of protecting the interests of the most fortunate individuals and large corporations at the expense of the greater good.
‘This is not a just future for California. We cannot let it stand . . . We need to get serious and ask ourselves what kind of future we want for our children.’