"The fight for jobs is the central fight for our times," stressed Alan Charney, head of Jobs for America Now, a coalition spearheading the fight against unemployment. Charney's comments were made at a teleconference meeting this week of hundreds of civil rights, community organizations and central labor councils sponsored by the Leadership Council for Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR).
Charney underscored the need to build a real movement from the ground up.
The focus of the discussion was building grassroots support for the Local Jobs for America Act (HR 4812) which will provide 1 million desperately needed jobs to communities most directly affected by the recession.
The Associated Press recently reported that the jobs bill was stalled in Congress. But Gordon Lafer, representing Congressman George Miller, D-Calif., initiator of the bill, said the jobs legislation is passable.
Over 11 million workers have been laid off since the economic crisis began. HR 4812 is seen as the first step in the long struggle to reverse the effects of the recession. Anti-recessionary efforts must include stimulating demand by putting money in workers' hands, speakers said.
Among other speakers at the meeting were Wade Henderson, head of LCCHR, who chaired the meeting, and Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.
The Miller jobs bill, it was emphasized would provide fully funded full-time jobs for two years to cities and counties most in need. The jobs would pay $30,000 a year along with health benefits. A companion bill is being drafted in the Senate.
Lafer said funding streams would provide for a variety of employment opportunities and job training. Over $75 billion would be given to a community jobs program and several billion dollars would go for retaining police and firefighters. A breakdown of how many jobs will be available per city will be available next week.
Shuler said the AFL-CIO has been active in building support for the legislation all over the country. Ninety-two members of Congress in 42 states have been contacted so far, she said. Currently there are 114 co-sponsors of the bill. Over 200 co-sponsors are needed.
Key to building the campaign in the next weeks is contacting members of Congress to secure co-sponsorship of HR 4812, and participating in statewide efforts.
Upcoming this week for the jobs coalition are actions on Tax Day, April 15. Local activities can be found at: taxwallstreet.org.
An online petition will be available soon for the Milller bill, it was reported.
An AFL-CIO-led demonstration will be held on Wall Street April 29. The demonstration will demand banks pay their fair share of taxes, back finance reform legislation and unfreeze credit to homeowners.
Photo: PW/Marilyn Bechtel