fresh voices from the front lines of change







• “I can’t remember when we decided to downsize our middle class. When was it we decided to downgrade our living standards? I don’t remember that!”
• ” ‘Jobs jobs jobs,’ doesn’t mean people should need 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet.”
• “Our economy isn’t something that happens to us, it is something we make.”

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, spoke today at the Summit On Jobs & America’s Future in Washington D.C. and called on progressives “to transform the outrage” of the assault on public workers in Wisconsin “to make this moment a movement.”

Wade Henderson, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, introduced Trumka by talking about the “Ash Wednesday Massacre in Madison” on worker rights and said it is the most significant challenge to civil and human rights of the early 21st century.

Trumka began by saying that what happened last night in Madison, with the Republicans voting to end collective bargaining rights for public employees an “absolute corruption of democracy” that “showed just how far they are willing to go to pay back their corporate donors.”

Here are my notes of Trumka’s speech:

“To Scott Walker, ‘Thank You’ we should have invited him to come here today to receive the Mobilizer of the Year Award. His overreaching has brought us to this moment to talk about jobs and right to bargain. We wanted the debate for 25 years and suddenly it came to us, and gues what: we are winning. Who would have imagined that today we would have an opportunity to seize the debate and movbe it from deficit hysteria to where it belongs to jobs and the right to build a middle class standard of living.

As progressives it is our job to transform the outrage to make this moment a movement.

To ensure that this corruption in the Midwest does not stand, to keep the spark burning. In Madison the energy is electrifying, students and steelworkers sleeping in the capital building, families coming together, people from all walks of life, people who had no direct personal stake, rallying in support of good jobs and rights of public employees.

In Madison the crowd swelled, topped 100,000, then spread to every state. This wasn’t one single union calling on members, or a party. It was truly a bottom-up movement against our disastrous winner-take-all culture.

Americans have been pushed to brink and have had it. Enough! It is time to push back.

For decades we have been losing ground. For working families the last few years have been cataclysmic. The fire in Madison was sparked by intense fear, insecurity about jobs. People sent Obama to win change, and that means to people good jobs.

But we have been in a jobless recovery. 30% of families had a member out of work. So Into the vacuum stepped the right wingers to divide us, pit worker against worker and blame workers, teachers and nurses for the recession cause by the Wall Street bankers.

Good people who aren’t working will embrace hatred and fear if that is all they are offered.

As progressives we must offer alternatives and that must begin with good jobs. Instead we got justified anger and frustration over bank bailouts and lost jobs. And with a flood of corporate money, CEO-funded politicians missed it, that people want to hear bold programs to put people back to work. But instead they heard a willingness to turn on each other and saw it as a green light to come after us in an unprecedented attack.

Now we have a backlash, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Conventional wisdom hasn’t kept up with what people know. Austerity is all the rage here (in DC), they tell us that America in decline, and say you should wake up from the American dream, shake off expectation of a good education and health care and all our parents deserve to retire in dignity. They act as if it is a foregone conclusion that Social Security and Medicare should be cut, cut, and we should accept less and less.

I can’t remember when we decided to downsize our middle class. When was it we decided to downgrade our living standards? I don’t remember that!

Our millionaires and billionaires are enjoying outstanding returns. Bonuses are back, biggest in history, and they took home more of it thanks to the tax cut deal.

But we can’t afford good jobs they say! The idea of austerity in this environment is mind boggling!

The AFL-CIO will oppose any and all cuts to Social Security and Medicare no matter who puts them forward. Destroying economic security for our seniors is bad policy and wrong. They should always be the third rail.

If we care to seize it America has a bright future.

They spin deficits and ignore the jobs problem and the equality problem. But Moody’s Analytics says budget cuts will destroy 700,000 jobs. “So be it,” said speaker Boehner.

Every day that the So-be-it politics holds sway is another day of loss in America. More despair, layoffs, foreclosures, struggling businesses, failing banks, loss of tax receipts and a steeper downward cycle. Cuts will destroy the recovery we are seeing and the further down the road we go the worse it gets.

And we still have a jobs crisis. “Jobs jobs jobs,” doesn’t mean people should need 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet.

Freedom to form unions and bargain for more pay and benefits and a share of the profits we create is absolutely essential. Americans agree. We all agree freedom to use strength of our numbers to bargain for a good jobs is important, sacred, essential for the existence of a middle class.

It is time for progressives to earn our paychecks, to channel this uprising into a movement for large-scale creation of jobs that can resuscitate America’s middle class.

We don’t need spotty solutions, we need bold ideas to transform the economy. American has the money.

LA’s 30/20 initiative where government joined with businesses and labor to create positive cycles of innovation and development.

And how about bringing some of our outsourced jobs back home! (Applause.)

Business leaders like [Jeffrey] Immelt talk about reviving manufacturing. Walk the walk and bring jobs back home where they belong.

President Obama called for a 21st century infrastructure, exactly the type of large-scale initiative we need for jobs, and to compete with China and Germany and India. We need the President to go out there and champion those investments.

Our economy isn’t something that happens to us, it is something we make. But we have to create the political will. If we leave the millionaires to their money piles and the rest of us to pick up the scraps it won’t be easy, our opponents have all the money in the world to attack us. We need to keep on keeping on.

They threaten some of us or promise a few of us a special deal, but we must stand together.

it is a fundamental American belief that We the People can transform our nation and our world. Turn this movement into a tidal wave for 2012 elections. April 4 is the next opportunity, the date that Martin Luther King was assassinated, on April 4 we will gather nationwide to build the movement we need. It is about more than collective bargaining, it is about immigration rights, retirement, health care, a decent life, the American dream we all deserve to have.

The labor movement will work to grow this until it is the America that all of us have.

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