LaborTalk for February 15, 2011

Millions of Jobless Still Haunt Us;
Talk About Jobs Doesn’t Help Them

By Harry Kelber

Let’s be honest with ourselves. For the past two years since the heavy layoffs began, we’ve been telling ourselves that the most important issue for the country is to find jobs for the millions of people who have been forced into the ranks of the unemployed.

Do we really believe it? Can we think of any action by labor that would compel the government or industry (or both) to rehire at least several million out-of-work Americans? If not, why all the talk about jobs?

Last week, a very impressive gathering of experts held a three day conference entitled “2011 Good Jobs, Green Jobs,” on Feb. 8-10 at the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel in Washington. There were lists of plenary and keynote speakers who probably made some brilliant comments on what to do about unemployment. But not a single job was created.

Talking about “jobs, jobs and jobs” has become a cottage industry with union leaders and labor activists sounding off on the need to make jobs for the unemployed a top priority. How many conferences, workshops, forums and marches have been held by unions without producing favorable results on the jobs issue?

Unions Won’t Resort to Actions in Campaign for Jobs

Any fleeting hope that President Obama’s new $3.7 trillion budget would contain a massive infrastructure and work projects program that would provide jobs for millions of unemployed workers, has vanished.

In addition to proposing a five-year freeze on non-defense discretionary spending, President Obama would reduce the budgets of nearly half the federal departments and agencies. The cuts in state aid would result in more layoffs and a shrinkage of public services that provide a safety net for the poor, sick and elderly.

Obama has not used his authority to stop the outsourcing and offshoring practices of big business, that has caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying American jobs.

To add to the problem, the Republican majority in the House is trying to eliminate more than 100 government programs this year.

Employers are not going to listen to Obama asking them to show some sense of responsibility and love of country by investing the two trillion dollars in cash in their vaults. In the meantime, they can make their employees work harder and longer for less. And if they need to expand their work force, they can hire temporary workers who can be fired when they are no longer needed.

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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka hit the highest note on the job issue, when he was quoted on the AFL-CIO Blog as saying: “The debate about America’s future begins and ends concretely with the question of jobs,”

If “Rich” feels so passionately about jobs, why doesn’t he get his 12 million AFL-CIO members to do something about it?—Harry Kelber

LaborTalk will be posted here on February 18, 2011 and on our two web sites and on