Labor's Voice for Change (58) August 4, 2009

AFL-CIO Council Says New Stimulus Package
Is Urgent, as Mass Layoffs Continue to Rise

By Harry Kelber

In a hard-hitting statement, prompted by the loss of still another 467,000 jobs in June, the AFL-CIO Executive Council called for a second stimulus package to implement the Obama administration’s $787 billion recovery plan, enacted last February.

In a policy statement adopted at a special one-day meeting on July 28 in Washington, the Council said a new stimulus plan is urgently needed and “”must focus like a laser beam on job creation.”

While noting the progress that the first round Obama recovery plan had made in shoring up the economy, the Council stated: "The challenge of fixing this economic mess is enormous—and urgent. Creating good jobs that cannot be outsourced is central to the solution.” The Council referred to the 6.6 million jobs that have disappeared since the start of the recession in December 2007. It includes 1.9 million manufacturing jobs, and 1.3 million construction jobs,

The Council recommends increased spending by a second spending plan in the following areas:

• Extend unemployment benefits by at least seven weeks.

• Increase the supply of food stamps to help poor families cope with the economic downturn.

• More funds for state and local governments.

• Increase funds for needed infrastructure and clean energy projects.

• Bolster the financial stability of independent government agencies, such as the U.S. Postal Service.

Obama’s Economists Oppose New Stimulus Plan

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are 14.7 million people unemployed, with 4.4 million who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more, President Obama’s closest economic advisers see no need for another stimulus plan, especially since there are growing signs that the economy is moving (even if slowly) from recession to recovery., most economists agree that massive layoffs will continue through 2009 and most of 2010, no matter what happens to the economy.

It will take a tremendous effort on the part of the AFL-CIO to convince the Obama administration and Congress that the millions of workers who have lost their jobs, homes and a chunk of their retirement pay, deserve as much help as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Citi, A.I.G. and other “too big to fail” companies.

Where can the AFL-CIO find powerful allies that can apply pressure on the White House and Congress to approve a second stimulus plan? Those allies are here and available. We’re talking about the millions of unemployed, who need an organization like the AFL-CIO to defend them.

A good way to begin would be for each AFL-CIO Central Labor Council to call a meeting of the unemployed in their communities to work out a plan of joint activity to win a new stimulus plan. What better way than involving the people who have the most to gain if a second stimulus package becomes a reality?

If the Federation's leaders or any union members have a better plan, let them speak up. To do nothing should not be an option.

* * * * *

I believe it makes good moral and political sense for the labor movement to help the unemployed form their own organization, as they did during the Great Depression, so they can have a voice in their own defense. When unorganized workers eventually get their jobs back, we want them to remember that unions were their friends when they needed help. That will make it a lot easier to recruit them into unions.—Harry Kelber

Article 59 of Labor’s Voice for Change will be posted on Thursday, August 6.