NEW YORK – Workers chanting, “Who’s city? Our city!” rallied here outside the New York Stock Exchange with laid-off workers from WorldCom, Enron and Arthur Andersen to tell Corporate America, “No more business as usual!”

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney told the crowd, “When corporate criminals invade our workplaces and our markets to steal our jobs and our savings, we must react every bit as decisively as when thieves enter our homes and try to bring harm to our loved ones.”

He added, “And we must respond just as strongly when co-conspirators of those criminals occupy and take control of our government, our legislative bodies and our regulatory agencies.”

Sweeney called for the mobilization of the 40 million people who live in union households “to replace anti-worker members of Congress with men and women who reject insiders and special interests and put people first.” He added, “During the month of August, the AFL-CIO will be publicly linking corporate criminals with their congressional co-conspirators while those members of Congress are home in their districts.”

On Oct. 19, the AFL-CIO will organize a “No More Business As Usual” National Day of Action to educate and mobilize workers and their families to vote on Nov. 5.

Sweeney, describing the crisis rocking the country, said, “The stock market loses $7 trillion dollars in value as the White House drags its feet and Congress refuses to rescind the $1.6 trillion dollar tax break they gave to the same CEOs who are now stealing us blind.”

Workers from Enron,WorldCom and Arthur Andersen told the noontime crowd about their stories of how “corporate criminals” wrecked the lives and dreams of millions of working families, while they got away with millions of dollars.

Debra Johnson, an Enron employee, was laid off Nov. 15 with no notice. A single parent with three children, she thanked the AFL-CIO for its efforts on behalf of her and other Enron employees. She said she had not been a member of a union for her seven years at Enron, but “if I had to do it all over again, getting a union would be the first call of duty.”

The AFL-CIO sued and won $34 million dollars for the laid-off Enron workers. Sweeney announced the AFL-CIO will go to court with a suit on behalf of the 17,000 laid-off WorldCom workers to get the severance pay they are owed.

Randi Weingarten, president of the 140,000-member United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and chair of the Muncipal Labor Committee, representing 100 municipal workers’ unions, told the World, “What we’ve been seeing in the last few months is corporation after corporation more interested in what their executives get and in cooking the books that hurt investors and hurt the public and doubly hurt the people that have worked for them.”

Many workers in the crowd had suffered from the double impact on the economy of Sept. 11 and the stock market crisis with no discernable government response.

Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 6 member Lydia Ramos lost her job of 20 years due to Sept 11. Like others in her local she has not been able to find another job. “The government should give us more support. We need help because our members worked for so many years and paid much taxes. We should have [special] consideration now.”

Sweeney announced that the AFL-CIO will be also using the more than $6 trillion in workers’ pension funds “to pressure for higher standards of corporate behavior and change ‘business as usual’ on Wall Street. Company by company, starting with the S&P 100, we will demand corporate accountability through shareholder action, cyber-action, suite action and street action.”

Richard Grande, a shop steward from Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, told the World the source of the problem is simple: “Corporate greed, greed, greed and more greed, and no conscience,” he said. “We need watchdogs. We have to put a stop to this. They are putting us all in the poorhouse. Everything is in jeopardy.. Now it’s up to us, the people, to put a stop to it.”

When asked why the Bush administration is fixated on defeating pro-labor incumbents like Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), Grande retorted, “In plain English, they are scared. We’re janitors, superintendants, elevator operators. We’re the people that make this city run. If you see the movie Bread and Roses you get a picture of the abuse, racially and sexually, we go through. We need politicians to open their eyes to see and to help us get our fair share.”

The author can be reached at jleblanc@pww.org

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