AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka presented a comprehensive analysis of the nation's economic crisis in a "major speech'' at the Brookings Institute on Sept.30. In his speech, he offered a six-point program that he said would "restore the middle class, which is the heart and soul of the American Dream."
There was actually nothing new in Trumka's one hour and 26 minute speech that he had not said many times before since the start of the recession. His sophisticated audience knew about the horrible statistics on unemployment, the immoral behavior of global multinationals, the cases of mistreatment of workers, the outsourcing of American jobs and other problems he discussed. They were expecting to hear something unusual and perhaps dramatic, but they didn't get it.
Trumka's six-point program for solving the economic crisis is almost identical to the one he's been advocating at various forums. It calls for rebuilding our transportation, manufacturing and energy sectors as 21st Century enterprises. Absent is any mention of the three wars that the U.S. is currently engaged in or their cost in lives and treasure.
"Our challenge today is preserving jobs and creating new ones not throwing people out of work and cutting off essential services and benefits, " Trumka said. He discussed why labor was opposed to the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, which Congress will soon be voting on. He had some harsh comments about China.
Trumka expressed approval of President Obama's jobs bill, saying "Congress should pass it right away and then do more." He did not mention that the AFL-CIO had spent several weeks to promote its "America Wants to Work" campaign. Apparently most people, especially the unemployed, had figured that out by themselves.
It was noted that Trumka had nothing to say a bout the spontaneous protest movement against Wall Street, which has been growing in cities around the country. Within the AFL-CIO, Trumka is regarded as a "talker, not a do-er."
A Spontaneous Anti-Wall Street Movement is Continuing to Build
A loosely-knit populist campaign, that started on Wall Street less than a month ago, has spread to dozens of cities across the country. In Los Angeles, it has brought protesters to camp out near City Hall; in Chicago, congregating before the Federal Reserve Bank; in Boston, they are marching through the downtown area to rally against corporate greed, unemployment and the role of financial institutions in the economic crisis.
The protesters have little resources and no acknowledged leadership. They learn about each other and how to act by using the available technology: Facebook, Google and Twitter. Many of the people who have tapped into the "Occupy Wall Street" campaign have never been connected with any political organization or demonstrated before now.
But like the Egyptians, the scale of greed, immorality and social injustice has become so widespread, they could not deny their strong impulse to protest.
The fledgling movement gained new converts among fair-minded citizens when the police arrested 700 people demonstrating near Wall Street and on the Brooklyn Bridge. The protesters have managed to stay non-violent in the face of provocations.
As yet, there has been no reaction from the White House and important politicians in Congress. They are waiting to see how the movement develops.
LaborTalk will be posted here on October 7, 2011 and on our two web sites www.laboreducator.org and on www.laborsvoiceforchange.org.