DETROIT – Far too many people living in my home state of Michigan are suffering unnecessarily.
Over the last 10 years, one million residents have lost their jobs, 250,000 in Detroit.
Among them are autoworkers, steelworkers, teachers, and public workers who performed needed services at the city, county and state level. These are people who worked hard, arrived at work on time, took pride in what they did, but still they lost their jobs.
They lost those jobs because companies found it more profitable to move work out of the state and because Wall Street stole the money that should have gone to funding state and local budgets.
There is only one reason for this kind of suffering and theft: The profits of the corporations and financial institutions have been put before the interests of the people.
The problem isn’t a lack of money. We are a wealthy country; we have enough money. The problem is too much of the money is in too few hands.
We are not going to turn this problem around overnight or by ourselves but the possibilities to turn the tables are growing as evidenced by recent events here.
Two significant things happened in this city over the last several weeks. One was the national convention of the United Auto Workers union, June 13-17. With the election of Bob King as its new president, this union is re-entering, in a major way, the fight for justice and equality.
During the UAW convention, delegates marched to Detroit’s financial center. The march was led by Bob King, NAACP President Ben Jealous (who had spoken earlier during the convention) and International Brotherhood of Teamsters President James Hoffa. Different chants could be heard but one stood out: the call of “justice” was met by the response of “power.”
Having listened to much of the discussion and speeches during the convention it was clear to me what kind of power they were talking about: labor and its allies have the power to take this country back from Wall Street, the right wing and the Tea Party. It was the most militant march I have ever participated in.
The second event in this city that showed the potential to turn this country around was the U.S. Social Forum, June 22-26. It was a great collection of grassroots activists involved in the movement for social, economic and environmental justice.
The forum’s motto “Another World is Possible; Another U.S. is Necessary” emphasizes the potential and the necessity to work to save the planet and its people.
A large labor presence was seen at the forum and unions and their members played leading roles in several of the demonstrations for jobs, for the rights of farm workers and against the economic crisis created by the banks. One UAW leader remarked to me he’d been on more union-sponsored demonstrations in the last week than in the previous 10 years.
These two events, the Social Forum and the UAW convention, show a dramatic reawakening of a people’s movement.
It’s a movement that wants to chart a world where people can live in peace and security, where the corporations and Wall Street are not allowed to enrich themselves at our expense.
It’s a great time to be part of the movement!