PITTSBURGH, PA. – With more than 1,500 progressive bloggers and activists streaming into Pittsburgh this week, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., joined United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard, Campaign for America’s Future co-director Robert Borosage and Netroots Nation spokesperson Mary Rickles on a conference call today to set the scene and preview this year’s “Netroots Nation” convention.
In addition to major addresses from President Bill Clinton, Gov. Howard Dean, White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and a match-up between Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., the gathering will feature several activities sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future, including a straw poll, a tour of a modern steel plant and a party with batting practice at Pirates Stadium.
National and international attention is turning to Pittsburgh with the arrival of the Netroots Nation convention, followed next month by the AFL-CIO annual conference and the G-20 Summit. Attention is also turning towards the city’s struggle to forge new jobs in an economy where millions have disappeared.
Pittsburgh’s economic revival is due to a high degree of collaboration between industry, labor and government, according to a new report by the Campaign for America’s Future. The report explains how Pittsburgh is an example of a city that has made the transition from the old to the new economy, citing lessons for the nation.
Sen. Casey, who welcomed delegates to the city for the major gatherings on today’s conference call, said that a specifically designed industrial policy brought Pittsburgh back, not market forces, citing the Campaign for America’s Future’s report.
“Pittsburgh faced challenges as early as the 1950s, but by the 1970s it was losing tens of thousands of jobs,” said Sen. Casey “Pittsburgh had to transition out of that to the economy we have today, which includes a new manufacturing base that is unheralded in the nation. This recovery was the result of deliberate planning. You have to have government leadership but you also have to have corporate leadership and industrial leadership that’s willing to work together to give meaning to words like ‘collaboration’ and ‘strategic planning.’”
Gerard, who along with Borosage is setting up this week’s steel mill tour for bloggers and reporters, said that the manufacturing sector in Pittsburgh, which pays much higher than its service counterparts, is defining a national model.
“I take issue with the term Rust Belt. There is no rust,” said Gerard. “The modern steel mill is a very high-tech and space-aged facility. They release a small fraction, less than one-third, of the carbon that a steel mill in China lets loose. Some say we can forget about manufacturing and move to a services economy, but a service economy won’t produce good-paying jobs.”
THURSDAY, AUG. 13
10:30 a.m. – Bloggers and labor leaders discuss how to hold Wall Street accountable together.
12 p.m. – Bloggers and media representatives tour a modern steel plant.
8 p.m. – President Bill Clinton delivers remarks to thousands of bloggers and activists.
FRIDAY, AUG. 14
9 a.m. – Gov. Howard Dean holds a health care town hall meeting with bloggers.
11 a.m. – Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., debate key issues.
7 p.m. – Bloggers and activists hold a party and batting practice at Pirates stadium.
SATURDAY, AUG. 15
Straw poll results will be released on Saturday morning.
9 a.m. – White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett has a conversation with bloggers.