NEW HAVEN, Conn. - "I don't want to rob my son of his future," Joe Guerrera, a construction worker unemployed for over two years, told Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Democrat, at a round table discussion on jobs held at the Second Star of Jacob Church in New Haven.
"This is the collapse of the American Dream," DeLauro responded passionately. "The issue is about creating jobs to turn our economy around."
The round table was the first of a series in each Congressional District during the August recess organized by We Are One, a coalition of union and community groups spearheaded by the Connecticut AFL-CIO. Similar actions for jobs are being held across the country.
"Connecticut workers want Congress to act on the jobs crisis with the same urgency that was brought to the manufactured political crisis over the debt ceiling," said Lori Pelletier, secretary treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.
"You can be sure that as the newly created Super Committee in Congress debates further cuts, I will be fighting to create jobs - not cut them," said DeLauro.
Decrying the actions of the Republican majority in the House "to hold the economy and our country hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling in a responsible, bi-partisan way," she said she was proud to vote against the final package because "it slashes $550 billion from critical public investments like education, infrastructure, research, law enforcement and food safety."
With untold numbers of families suffering from the continued economic crisis, the projection of 1.8 million more jobs to be lost as a result of the deficit deal has sparked a renewed call for large-scale job creation on an emergency basis.
"It is a real struggle being unemployed and trying to keep up with health care premiums and hold onto our home," said Alexandra Ferreira at the round table. "Leadership of the Congress changed hands last year on the promise that they would create jobs, but they haven't even tried," she added.
Ferreira's testimony was part of a panel of workers from construction, manufacturing, education and a student.
Two days later, MoveOn and the Rebuild the Dream movement rolled out their ten point Contract for the American Dream at "Jobs Not Cuts" events in Congressional Districts across the country. Over 130,000 people across the country participated on-line and in local house meetings to set the priorities. Reflecting the radicalization process taking place in the country, most popular were demands to reverse spending priorities by taxing the wealthiest and corporations, ending the wars and rebuilding the nation's infrastructure.
As the Contract was rolled out, eyes were on Chicago where Rep. Jan Schakowsky announced the introduction of the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act, which would create 2.1 million jobs by creating job corps for school improvement, park improvement, student jobs, first responders, health care and community improvement. A push to get a large number of Congressional co-sponsors in underway.
Speaking at the AFL-CIO forum, DeLauro highlighted the recommendations of The Task Force on Job Creation co-chaired by United Steel Workers president Leo Girard, as well as her own bills for an infrastructure bank to jump start massive construction projects, extension of unemployment benefits, protection of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Pell Grants, and a bill to prohibit employers from discriminating against the unemployed in hiring practices.
The fight for jobs is on. It is the single most critical and patriotic effort around which to unite the nation. The pain and anger of families who can no longer find a pathway to a decent life is reaching a boiling point. The tools are in place that can expose the hypocrisy of tea party Republicans and build the movement for job creation on the ground. There is no time to waste.
Photo: Panel of unemployed workers and students meets with Rosa DeLauro in New Haven. Peggy Buchanan