CHICAGO - Beginning on Labor Day, the AFL-CIO and its allies will spend weeks organizing an "America Wants to Work" campaign to focus on what they see as the nation's real crisis: jobs.
The federation has already launched an online petition drive that allows supporters to demand massive job creation. Once there, they can not only sign the petition, but can forward it to 10 friends, asking them to do the same. The federation expects more than 800,000 signatures in a few weeks.
The launching of the campaign comes just days before the White House prepares to roll out its new jobs package. Unions want a dramatic plan that can actually decrease the unemployment rate, and they believe a substantial jobs package - even one that comes with a high price tag - can create a public groundswell that Republicans controlling Congress can't ignore.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has called for a jobs plan that is "adequate to the moment. Who knows what's politically achievable until we try? The president should articulate a solution of the size and scale necessary to solve the problem. We have a jobs crisis. If you do only what you think the other side and the 'tea party' will agree to, then they control the agenda."
The labor federation's jobs plan includes rebuilding schools, roads, ports and energy systems; reviving the manufacturing sector and stopping the flow of jobs overseas; preventing layoffs in state and local governments; and measures to avoid home foreclosures. Trumka has also called for the investment of $400 billion a year over 10 years on public works projects. That would be on top of the $4 trillion he says needs to be spent on infrastructure.
Estimates published by the American Society of Civil Engineers are that it will cost more than $2 trillion just to rebuild currently crumbling infrastructure. The other $2 trillion, says the AFL-CIO, are needed to invest in the technologies of the future, including high-speed rail and modern transportation networks.
Addressing concern about the deficit, unions and their allies say that job creation and deficit reduction go hand in hand. "They complement one another," said Trumka. "You want to get rid of the deficit? Put 25 million people back to work and you won't have a deficit problem."
Working America, the AFL-CIO affiliate for people not in unions, is continuing the Buyers Remorse campaign it started this summer. The campaign allows voters to return their ballots for the GOP politicians who made promises about jobs and failed to keep them. "The Republicans elected in 2010 often made promises about jobs and the economy that turned out to be as truthful as a 3 a.m. infomercial," said Mike Hall, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO. "Instead of the promised jobs and fixed economy, voters got only a box full of shoddy political games, extremist rhetoric and corporate coziness."
On Working America's Main Street blog, Doug Foote reports that several thousand people have turned in Buyers Remorse postcards.
Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., is among those whom Working America has targeted in its campaign. The republican lawmaker said his vote to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act was, in reality, a move that would create jobs. As a result of the Buyers Remorse effort, 600 people who had voted for Walberg in 2010 have returned those votes by postcard.
Buyers Remorse campaigns are expected to be launched in numerous congressional districts this fall.
Click here to get to the Main Street Blog and Working America's Buyers Remorse campaign.
Organizers of the America Wants to Work campaign point to the long lines at job fairs and wherever job openings are announced as evidence of the urgency of their effort.
Aldi Supermarkets in Detroit, Chicago and other cities, for example, have announced a few job openings recently. More than 1,000 showed up for six job openings at a store in Detroit and, last week, an Aldi store on Chicago's South Side posted five job openings. More than 1,200 people responded to the five postings.