ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Somewhere over New Mexico, there’s a big, hot air balloon flying. “Jobs, Not Cuts,” its sign declares.
The balloon, at a widely attended air show, is one of the more innovative ways the AFL-CIO is getting its message across during its “America Wants to Work” week of action on jobs and justice, Oct. 10-16.
The activism is designed to force politicians’ attention on real ways to create jobs, by repairing infrastructure – “doing what needs to be done,” labor says – keeping teachers, firefighters, and other public workers employed, and extending jobless benefits, among other moves, says federation President Richard Trumka.
“Working families will be demanding action to promote a real jobs creation agenda,” he adds – not the job-destroying budget cuts pushed by House Republicans, big business, and their allies.
“We’ll continue to call for the passage of President Obama’s American Jobs Act, and we’ll go back and back, and back again” to the streets “until lawmakers listen,” he vowed in an Oct. 5 conference call. “Every elected official will be held accountable.”
The week of action will feature marches, rallies, and teach-ins in dozens of cities. The balloon flight in Albuquerque is one of the more unusual ways to get the message across, along with a sarcastic 5-cent hot dog sale to benefit millionaires, in Colorado.
That will make the point, Trumka says, that the nation’s CEOs, who gave themselves a cumulative 27 percent raise last year while sitting on $2 trillion and refusing to create jobs in the U.S., don’t really need the break – but the rest of the country does.
“We’re asking for the top one percent to pay their fair share” of the costs of job creation, especially since many of them – the Wall Street speculators – ran the economy into the ditch, and cost the nation millions of jobs in the first place, he added. That’s why another demand of the week of action is enacting a small stock speculation tax. The levy would raise an estimated $150 billion yearly, to be directed towards job creation programs.
The week of action precedes the Oct. 16 dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial in D.C., and an Oct. 15 march for jobs and justice, echoing the theme of King’s 1963 March on Washington. The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, the Communications Workers, and the National Education Association will lead that.
“We will bring forth the masses who have not been heard in the midst of the jobs debate,” said Sharpton. “As the president fights for a jobs act, as supercommittees meet, they need to hear marching feet. This is to send a message to Congress.”