|Listen to call here.
Lisa in Louisville, Ky., was one of some 20,000 unemployed Working America members who took part in a conference call today with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to talk about solutions to the jobs crisis and how to make the economy work for working families again.
She posed this question:
We’ve been told for years that cheap goods from China will somehow help our economy, but I believe what really helps is spending our money here. How do we redirect what we’re spending there to our economy here?
We can’t allow ourselves to be chumps when it comes to trade.
He and Trumka then went on to outline the changes that must be made in U.S. trade and tax policies that currently encourage U.S. firms to ship jobs overseas.
Callers were concerned about creating jobs now, ensuring that new green jobs stay in the United States, extending long-term unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of February, reining in the kind of financial practices and abuses that fueled the recession, and other issues. (For more, check out Workday Minnesota’s coverage here.)
Working America Director Karen Nussbaum says the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate for workers who have no union is mobilizing its 3 million members to call on Congress to move quickly on job-creation legislation. Callers could add their names to a petition to the Senate to move jobs legislation similar to the House-passed Jobs for Main Street Act. Said Franken:
This year, our first priority, and our second and our third, must be creating jobs and putting America back to work. The idea of a jobless recovery is absurd. Real recovery is good middle-class jobs for all Americans.
Marvin Bohn, from Yellow Springs, Ohio, who lost his job as director of a college’s food service department, said:
In Ohio, It seems like everyone’s out of work. What should the government do to create jobs, not just short-term jobs, but jobs that will stick around?
For the near term, Trumka pointed to the AFL-CIO five-point plan that includes job-creating measures such as rebuilding the nation’s roads, schools and infrastructure, and lending Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds directly to small and medium-sized businesses via community banks.
For the longer term, said Trumka, the nation must invest in green and clean energy jobs, rebuilding infrastructure, training and incentives for firms that create and keep jobs in the United States.
We can’t have half measures. We must take measures big enough to correct the problems. Even when times are good, people can afford to buy cars, but they don’t pay for it all at once. We can do the same thing for jobs, and it’s an investment that will pay off in the future.
Liz Freeburg, from Circle Pines, Minn., has been out of work for 18 months since losing her sales job in the iron industry. While she and her husband and three special-needs children struggle, banks and Wall Street are handing out bonuses and “padding their pockets just like insurance companies with medical insurance.” Freeburg asked:
What can be done to make sure banks stop taking advantage of us and contributing to our financial situation?
Trumka said it was “quite frankly outrageous” that after taking taxpayer money in the bailout, the banks were back “to business as usual” In handing out obscene bonuses. He pointed to the efforts of the AFL-CIO in trying to tighten corporate governance rules through shareholder actions, new laws and regulations.
But it also takes public pressure and outrage, Trumka said. He urged participants to call lawmakers and urge them to rein in the banks and Wall Street.
Ron, from Barberton, Ohio, wanted to know if there was a move to renew the extended unemployment insurance benefits program. Chris Owens, director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), who also was on the call, said it is urgent that the Senate and House move quickly and extend the program.
We have to build pressure on members to act quickly. Call your home state senators and representatives and tell them to extend the program.