Labor's Voice for Change (63) August 20, 2009

No Cheers from 247,000 Workers Laid Off in July
That the Economic Recession Is Coming to an End

By Harry Kelber

President Obama’s economic advisers were delighted when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “only” 247,000 workers had lost their jobs in July 2009. It was a big drop from the 467,000 jobs, lost in the previous month, still another sign, they said, that the recession was ‘bottoming out.”

If the country is well on the way toward economic recovery, the White House figures it can pay less attention to the problems of the unemployed and focus on its other major concerns. Its economists are adamantly opposed to a second economic recovery package on the grounds that a bailout of the unemployed is wasteful and that the business community will provide the necessary jobs--as they need them.

President Obama’s advisers clearly do not intend to show the same solicitude or offer the same assistance to the unemployed as they did for the banks and Wall Street investment firms. There are some 14 million workers who are fully unemployed. At least 2.3 million have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. Other millions are in part-time jobs, involuntarily. And still others have given up looking for work after futile job hunts.

With mass layoffs expected to continue for months after the first stages of recovery have been reached, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win are absolutely right in insisting that Congress approve a second stimulus package. It must also hold the Obama administration to its pledge to provide 3.5 million jobs in its first two years in office.

While President Obama has named top personnel for virtually every federal agency, he has yet to name a director of employment and public works. We get only vague and fragmentary reports on specific works projects and the number of people working on them. Unions are entitled to specific information and should insist on it.

During the Great Depression, millions of jobs were created under the direction of Harry Hopkins, and people were made aware of the hundreds of public works projects where construction workers could find employment. Two organizations of the unemployed, the Workers Alliance and Unemployment Councils fought for the unemployed and won many battles, without e-mails, cell phones, Ipods and the Internet,

Convention Should Support I.A.M.’s ‘Jobs NOW!’ Campaign

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (I.A.M.) will propose an eight-point “Jobs NOW!” initiative that it will ask the AFL-CIO to adopt at its 2009 convention this September.

With many economists predicting that layoffs will continue into 2011, I.A.M. President Tom Buffenbarger pledges that “until this mega-recession ends and sustained job-creating growth starts, JOBS Now! will remain our primary focus.”

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We should not abandon the unemployed. They are part of Labor’s family.—Harry Kelber

Article 64 of “Labor’s Voice for Change” will be posted on Tuesday, August 25.