LaborTalk for August 12, 2011

Does Anyone Believe Jobs Will Be Created
By an 'America Wants to Work' March?

By Harry Kelber

The AFL-CIO Executive Council has initiated a nationwide "America Wants to Work" campaign that will start on Labor Day and reach the entire labor movement and its allies by early October, when there will be a a "Week of Actions," focused on the demand for good jobs.

The slogan of the campaign, "America Wants to Work," is hardly an inspiring one. In fact, it's as low-key as you can get. It sounds more like begging and pleading for jobs, than demanding them.

The slogan lacks an angry, urgent and meaningful message, like "Make Wall Street Pay!" a campaign that, unfortunately, was soon aborted when AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was content to deliver rhetorical blasts at the bankers, but not to confront them.

Can you remember the massive AFL-CIO's "April 4 Day of Actions," a nationwide mobilization "to defend the rights of workers and their unions?" On that day, unions around the country, with solidarity and unity as their themes, conducted marches, teach-ins, sit-ins, video displays, candlelight vigils, theater skits and other "events."

Within a week, the exhilaration of the April 4th campaign was forgotten. The unemployed rate was still above 9 percent. Millions of unemployed were still unable to find jobs and getting no help from their government or the nation's employers.

No one on the AFL-CIO Executive Council or anywhere else believes that the "America Wants to Work" campaign will create jobs. So why are we spending the time, money and effort on a "Week of Actions?" Union members would like to hear Trumka and members of the Executive Council on what the campaign hopes to accomplish in terms of job-creation.

So What Will Move Congress to Create Jobs?

It would take an extraordinary effort by Americans to compel Congress to create the millions of public works jobs that were life-savers to the people in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Today, we are faced with a U.S. President who has devoted the past six months agreeing to spending cuts of more than $1.5 trillion. Do you expect him to initiate a major jobs program? Then, there are the House Republicans, who won't spend a penny on the unemployed because their goal is a smaller, less costly government.

The fact is that labor leaders, who have been around for ten. fifteen, twenty years, have never had an answer to the problem of unemployment, except maybe to talk about it. And they haven't come up with a course of action to create those decent jobs.

The secret truth is that, while Americans talk about the unemployed, they are not yet ready to fight for them. Participating in marches, sit-ins, picketing. and sending e-mails on behalf of the unemployed has become a virtue in itself, without creating a single job.

It's also true that Americans are not sufficiently enraged about the plight of millions of jobless and their families, They'll stick to the easier path that requires sympathy, but no risk.

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When Americans reach the level of rage about what Wall Street and corrupt politicians have been doing to them, they will find ways to convince Congress about jobs.

LaborTalk will be posted here on August 16, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

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