SAVE JOBS AND SAVE OUR ECONOMY – UNITE HERE urges Obama

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Today, January 20th, UNITE HERE will launch its UNITE HERE for Change campaign, an ‘effort to work with President Obama and Congress to make real progress on jobs, health care, immigration, and the right of every worker to form a union’.

UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor said: ‘Our members mobilised to elect Barack Obama and this new Congress.

‘It will be the actions of our members – and millions of other people who work hard every day – that will move the President and Congress to take positive action to turn around our economy and make it work for all Americans.’

In seventeen cities across the country, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Indianapolis, UNITE HERE members will be attending Inauguration Day parties to kick-off the ‘UNITE HERE for Change’ campaign.

‘We are in the midst of an economic crisis and thousands of workers in every industry are losing their jobs,’ said Noel Beasley, UNITE HERE Executive Vice President – Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board.

‘Now is the time for us to renew our efforts for change.

‘Now is the time for us to join forces – labor, religious, environmental, immigrant rights, and social justice organisations – to stem the tide of home foreclosures, to protect and create good jobs with health and pension benefits, to reform immigration policy, and to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to make it easier for workers to form a union.

‘The challenge of saving jobs and the challenge of saving our economy are one and the same.’

The Teamsters Union will also be celebrating change when the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, is inaugurated.

To commemorate this historic affair, the Teamsters will be hosting a number of events, including a breakfast with the Democratic Governor’s Association.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has also been graciously hosting Volunteer Programs for the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Officials with the Presidential Inaugural Committee have been training volunteers and setting up phone banks at Teamster facilities for the past three weeks.

‘President-elect Obama is a leader who strongly supports working families in America and we are proud to be a part of his Inauguration Day events,’ said Jim Hoffa, Teamster General President.

Aside from hosting celebrations in Washington, Teamsters from around the country will be participating in Inauguration Day events, including Roy Gross, a business agent for Local 299 in Detroit.

Gross will be one of 40 everyday Americans who joined the president-elect and his family on a one-day, whistle stop train ride from Philadelphia to Washington.

Gross said he is honoured and proud to be representing the Teamsters during what is expected to be one of the nation’s most historic and memorable days.

‘I’m just so honoured. I was expecting to watch the historic moment on TV,’ Gross said. ‘What a thing to tell your grandchildren.’

Meanwhile, the SEIU union has joined workers and consumers at Bank of America locations around the nation to call for the Bank to use taxpayer funds to help our economic recovery – or give the money back.

Bank of America received $25 billion in taxpayer funds as part of an economic recovery package and today is back in Congress asking for more.

Yet, since receiving bail-out funds, the Bank has announced it intends to layoff 35,000 workers and it continues to charge consumers some of the highest service fees in the industry.

Plus, Bank of America is failing to provide some of its workers with healthcare, passing the estimated $50 million annual cost on to taxpayers.

Meanwhile, the company invested $7 billion in an overseas bank, paid $10 million for Washington lobbyists, and owns nine corporate jets.

‘We gave them the chance to help our struggling economy – we even gave them the money to do it – and they failed,’ said Stern.

‘This is really an insult to America’s working families and a sign of how badly things need to change.’

SEIU announced its new project to shine a light on the economic damage these corporations do and to call on them to come to the table and work with their employees, communities, and consumers to find economic solutions.

The project kicked off in Charlotte, New York, Boston, LA, and with actions at Bank of America headquarters.

Simultaneously, the campaign is mobilising more than half a million e-activists and sending videos out to more than 7,000 key decision makers.

This is among the union’s most ambitious efforts to date.

‘We’re encouraging everyone to visit Bank of America, talk to the workers, learn what’s going on,’ Stern remarked.

‘We all need to speak up and demand better. We all need economic recovery that works.’

SEIU said: ‘For the past five years, some of our nation’s largest and most iconic corporations have made money using business models that enrich shareholders and CEOs while taking advantage of American workers and consumers.

‘With our economy sagging and indicators showing things are getting worse, American families have overwhelmingly called for a much-needed change, but these corporations are fighting back, resisting solutions.’

Autoworkers union UAW asked: ‘What would Dr Martin Luther King Jr think of the history that is about to be made when the nation’s first African-American president takes the oath office?

‘Would Dr King consider it the fulfillment of his dream or just a starting point?

‘Would he point to the progress African-Americans, women and other minorities have made and tout how far we’ve come as a nation?

‘Or would he point to the vast inequities that remain and tell us to keep working?’

The union added: ‘One thing is certain: There’s a different feel to this year’s King holiday because of the election of Barack Obama to the highest office in the land.

‘There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment among people of all colours because a majority of voters in the United States looked past the colour of a candidate’s skin and judged him on his promise to change the direction of the country.

‘This year marks a significant milestone in the realisation of Dr. King’s dream,’ said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.

‘And just as our union helped Dr King open America’s eyes to injustice, we will also help President Obama fix the many difficult problems our country faces.

‘Perhaps leaders in the White House and Congress will help answer the question of whether we are advancing toward a more just society, or merely paying it lip service.’

‘Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose,’ King once said. ‘It is the strength required to bring about social, political and economic change.’

UAW asked: ‘Will our leaders, in our current dire economic straits, seek to help those who have lost their jobs or leave them at the mercy of market forces?

‘Will we seek to ensure that women make the same pay for equal work or continue to treat their labour as not equal to that of men?

‘Will we protect those who want their legal right to form a union and bargain collectively for a better future or will we let the same people who led us into this economic nightmare call all the shots?

‘Will we help provide health care for every American or allow corporations to decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t and decimate our economy even further?

‘The answers to these questions aren’t always clear nor will they be easy.

‘But what is clear is that Americans demand change so that we have a chance at peace and prosperity for all.

‘And we now have a leader who has promised to work for the changes in American society that Dr King spoke eloquently about.’