Make workers' voices heard

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The union hall in New Haven was filled Nov. 13, as Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro addressed the crowd of unionists clergy and community activists.

“Our goal is to make sure workers, not just business and industry, are at the heart of an economic recovery plan,” she said to applause.

Condemning the fact that airline workers were left behind while airline companies received aid from Congress DeLauro said, “We’re here to stand up for workers and unemployed.”

She announced that her office had helped organize rallies in every state and the Virgin Islands to extend unemployment insurance for another 26 weeks and to extend COBRA health-care coverage through Medicaid for the seven million unemployed and 4.2 million part-time workers who cannot afford healthcare.

Challenging House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s statement that such a proposal “doesn’t fit with America’s values,” DeLauro replied, “If those of us in public office can’t bring relief to working families who have suffered terribly in the last couple of months, why are we sitting there?”

She called for the defeat of billions of dollars of tax giveaways to the largest corporations. “We are going to rebuild America. That is a patriotic pledge.”

Referring to the debate now taking place in the Senate, DeLauro said, “If ever there was a time to make the voices of workers heard this is it, because workers are having trouble paying their mortgages and feeding and clothing their children.” She urged visits to members of Congress during the Thanksgiving recess.

Connecticut AFL-CIO President John Olsen, who shared the platform with DeLauro, underscored the fact that the Republican package includes “$115 billion in tax giveaways to the biggest corporations, and only $14 billion to people in need. To get the most lucrative benefits, a company has to move jobs overseas.”

He called for tax rebates to those who did not receive one, expanded health care benefits, unemployment insurance and training to match dislocated workers with available jobs.

“The Republicans are doing this underneath the radar screen of Sept. 11,” he said, but people shouldn’t be distracted. “We need to rebuild schools and roads, and meet transit needs. This could stimulate our economy.”

Even as the U.S. Senate is debating the stimulus package, the Connecticut state legislature is in special session discussing cuts in health care and other human needs, due to a budget deficit. Most states are facing similar economic crises.

While the Democratic bill does extend unemployment compensation, it is not as strong as the proposal by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which includes revenue sharing with the states, infrastructure repair which would create new jobs, and freezing tax cuts to the rich.