Freeze foreclosures and heat up jobs plan, spirited rally tells Congress

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CHICAGO – Dozens of labor and community activists rallied here in front of the Federal Building Nov. 21 urging Congress to put a freeze on home foreclosures and to bail out Main Street, not Wall Street, with a stimulus package that includes a national jobs plan.

“We need Congress to take care of the needs of working people and not the rich,” said Carl Rosen, western region president of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. “What we need are policies that are going to keep people in their homes and that includes an immediate moratorium on foreclosures now,” added Rosen. “We need policies that are going to put people back to work. Working people need to earn livable wages so they can have real purchasing power again,” said Rosen.

Katie Jordan is the Chicago president of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and said, “We’re here today in coalition with our partners to raise our voices concerning what is going on with the $700 billion dollar bailout plan for Wall Street,” said Jordan. “Big bankers are expected to benefit from this bailout but more and more working people are losing their jobs and their homes,” she added.

“Home foreclosures are a serious matter and our communities are devastated,” said Jordan. “People’s families are having to split up just to find shelter.” African American and Latino communities are the first and worst ones hit by the foreclosure crisis including the rising unemployment rates, said Jordan.

“Working people’s allies including the labor movement is urging Congress to fix this problem right away including making it a priority to pass the Employee Free Choice Act once Obama becomes president, so that workers at their jobs can organize a union and fight for better working conditions for all,” said Jordan.

Kristen Cox, a consultant with the Institute for Policy Studies, a non-profit think tank noted that homeownership is the number one source of wealth for many Americans. But because of historical advantages enjoyed by whites through the GI Bill and other government programs, the sub-prime mortgage crisis has disproportionately affected African Americans, noted Cox.

“The African American middle class is in danger of losing between $71 billion and $92 billion of wealth due to bad sub-prime loans,” said Cox. “This is an unprecedented transfer of wealth from one community that will have serious consequences for the economic mobility of African Americans.”

Chicago Jobs With Justice organized the rally in coalition with a number of local labor and community groups. The event was organized to call on Congress to issue a freeze on all home foreclosures and support Illinois Senator Dick Durbin in his efforts to allow judicial intervention in restructuring mortgage rates for affected families. Speakers at the rally are also calling for a job-creating economic stimulus package with massive investment in infrastructure rebuilding and mass transit expansion.

“We need a bailout for Main Street that creates jobs,” said Elce Redmond, an organizer with the South Austin Coalition Community Council. “This situation can be an opportunity to create good jobs and deal with global warming at the same time,” added Redmond.

The labor movement along with environmental activists and grass roots community organizations has come together to echo a growing demand that congress seize this moment to create a “green economy” by expanding and pushing conservation policies, noted Redmond. “Congress can simultaneously address climate change and create millions of green jobs. It’s a win-win situation,” said Redmond.

The rally concluded with a small delegation led by James Thindwa, executive director of Chicago Jobs With Justice that delivered a written statement to Durbin’s office.

Thindwa said millions of working families nationwide are becoming victims in a vicious predatory lending system and losing their homes.

“We will go up and deliver a letter to Senator Durbin urging him to continue championing the cause of workers and families,” said Thindwa.

“We want to offer him our support and urge other members of Congress to fight hard for a moratorium on foreclosures and a strong economic stimulus package,” he said.

plozano@pww.org.