In an e-mail message to millions of union activists today, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the $858 billion tax deal that extends emergency unemployment benefits for millions of jobless workers is only the first of many challenges America's workers will face over the next two years.
Slamming congressional Republicans for what he termed their "moral bankruptcy," Trumka said, "While desperately poor families are forgoing Christmas this year - prompting children to pen 'Dear Santa' letters that ask for basics like boots, coats and money for electricity bills - Republicans fought tooth and nail for a gilded gift basket of income tax cuts worth $120 billion for America's super-rich, and a new estate tax exemption that would let off all but America's 50 wealthiest families so their pampered children can keep more of their millions."
"Let's call these the cut-and-run Republicans," he declared, "who cut taxes and run from responsibilities."
The tax deal, passed by Congress last night, is "a huge relief for the more than 1.4 million long-term job seekers who already have lost their emergency unemployment benefits," but it "comes at a terrible price," Trumka said, "because it rewards obstructionists with huge tax breaks for the nation's richest and throws away precious resources we could use to revive our economy."
The AFL-CiO leader warned: "Soon, the same lawmakers who fought to get tax cuts for millionaires will come after Social Security and Medicare in the name of deficit reduction and 'shared sacrifice.' But they won't ask Wall Street and the moneyed interests to share sacrifice. Instead, they'll come after working people."
The labor movement and its allies among civil rights and community organizations oppose what they see as a stepped-up drive by Republicans and the right wing generally to solve the country's long-term financial problems on the backs of working people.
They point to opinion polls that indicate the public is behind them on this issue, noting that even majorities of registered Republicans oppose cuts in Social Security and Medicare and that most oppose rolling back health care reform.
In his e-mail to union members Trumka admitted that the labor movement is struggling to come up with a strategy that can succeed in creating the millions of jobs he says are needed for the country to move forward.
"How do we use our power to escape caving in to Wall Street and moneyed interests? And how do we create the millions of jobs we need now and move forward toward a future of broadly shared prosperity? I don't have all the answers today," he said. "But I do know we can't keep doing what we're doing now. I know we have to fight harder and louder and more creatively - and I know we can only win together."
Trumka urged everyone to pull out their mobile phones and text the word DEAL to 225568. "We'll keep you updated on our fight to stop deficit hypocrites from stealing our hard-earned Social Security and Medicare benefits," he said.