Labor leader encouraged by jobs summit

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka went on cable television last night after attending the White House summit and said he was “encouraged” by the gathering called by the president. “I think it worked really well,” Trumka said. “The president understands the urgency of job creation. He said it on numerous occasions: jobs, jobs, jobs. I think his staff and Cabinet understand the importance of job creation. A lot of good ideas came out that are usable.”

The president begins an effort to take some of those ideas out across the country when he speaks today in Allentown, Pa.

Although the summit was attended by many labor leaders calling for strong government action, there were also many business leaders present, from companies both big and small, who the president called upon to come forward with job creation proposals.

“The government alone is not going to create and doesn’t have the primary responsibility to create the jobs that will get our economy moving again. That’s the private sector. The president wants to hear from them on the type of environment we can have that would allow for that hiring to take place,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, after the meeting.

While some business leaders agreed with labor leaders that the nation’s manufacturing base must be restored in order to create long-lasting good jobs, others were short on specific job creation strategies.

Labor leaders and progressive economists at the summit apparently had no shortage of ideas.

Trumka reported that he told the president, “We need jobs now” and that he put forward the AFL-CIO’s five-point plan for job creation, which includes aid to state and local governments to prevent layoffs and maintain vital services and creating jobs through funding projects like repairing and building infrastructure.

Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, an economist, told the president now is not the time to cut the federal deficit and that without spending money to create jobs immediately, the nation will slip into deeper recession. Krugman noted that private corporations, some of whom made off with billions in taxpayer bailouts, have failed to create jobs. He said that the corporations did not hesitate to ask for help and that workers deserve no less.

Change To Win Chair Anna Burger proposed taxing Wall Street transactions to help pay for rescuing Main Street. She also backed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposal to use the remaining $200 billion in TARP funds to increase credit for small businesses.

A third idea put forward by Burger would expand home energy retrofitting, which began under the stimulus law, and extend it to schools and public buildings, while creating a “Green Bank” to use public money to leverage private investment in building energy-efficient and renewable-energy products.

Burger said other long-term recovery measures must include health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act, “to once again protect workers’ freedom to form unions and allow them to share in the prosperity of a new 21st century economy.”

Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, called for expansion of both “food aid assistance for unemployed Americans” and “lending opportunities to retailers to expand quality food access to underserved communities.” He said unemployed workers need food aid assistance to stay healthy.

Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America, said all federal programs, and private firms, should be held accountable for creating jobs. We need to “evaluate the impact of all federal policy decision-making on job creation and retention,” he declared.

Randy Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called for “community schools, especially in rural areas, where parents can get training after hours in the same place where their kids are learning during the day.” Obama reportedly called it a “terrific idea, worth exploring.”

The unemployment rate went from 10.2 percent to 10 percent in November, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures released this morning. There are 26 million people without jobs or full-time work. When the Great Recession began in December, 2007, there were 7.5 million unemployed with an official jobless rate of 4.9 percent.

Very few, in or out of government, are interpreting last month’s tiny downtick in the official jobless rate as the start of a reversal in the unemployment problem. Economic Policy Institute Director Larry Mishel, who was at yesterday’s White House summit, said today, “The jobs situation likely will worsen for up to the next 12 months. One reason,” he said, “is the backlog of people who dropped out of the labor force who will come back in – up to 3 million jobless workers. And when they start looking for jobs again, unemployment will rise.”



John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.