LaborTalk for May 20, 2011

The Big Debate Is Not About Creating Jobs,
But How to Slice or Slash Public Spending

By Harry Kelber

Although the unemployment rate edged up to 9 percent in April 2011 and 13.9 million Americans are still officially listed as unemployed, the issue of job-creation has virtually ceased to occupy the attention of Congress, the Obama administration and the national media.

As for the labor movement, unions have dropped their campaign for jobs, focusing their efforts on fighting the anti-labor laws that Republican governors and their controlled state legislatures have enacted.

President Richard Trumka continues to make speeches that call on Congress and the White House to create millions of jobs, but the truth is that his demands are not taken seriously in Washington. Indeed, there is not a glimmer of interest on the Beltway to spend the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to create a massive jobs program. .

The Republicans in Congress are obsessed about slashing federal spending to the bone, particularly taking away hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid. They have induced the Obama administration and the Democratic Party to make heavy spending cuts as one of their top priorities.

It is worth noting that coverage of unemployment by the mainstream media has dropped by 70 percent since the past summer, while news stories on deficit spending have doubled, according to a National Journal report.

Despite some evidence that the economy is improving, mass layoffs continue. In the first quarter of 2011, employers laid off 190,389 workers in 1,393 "events," in companies with 50 workers or more.

What Can the AFL-CIO Do for the Millions of Jobless?

It is clear that as long as there is a reservoir of millions of unemployed workers available to employers, those who are now on jobs will suffer losses in wages and benefits. Unions are being pressured to make heavy concessions in order to save the jobs of their members.

It comes down to this: Unless the labor movement comes to their aid, millions of workers will never be able to have a job again. Can we, in good conscience, abandon them?

* * * *

One course of action is to embark on a national campaign to organize the unemployed in the fight for jobs. Let's revive the demand to make Wall Street and its banks pay the cost of a huge jobs program, like the New Deal was able to construct in the 1930s.

LaborTalk will be posted here on May 24, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

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