CHICAGO – Hundreds of activists will rally downtown at GOP headquarters here Sept. 15 for a federal jobs bill and against senatorial candidate Mark Kirk, an Illinois congressman who has opposed numerous job creation bills.
Trade union activists, students, religious and community leaders say Kirk and his friends in Congress are bad for the economy and for workers in general.
They note that Kirk has consistently voted against extending unemployment benefits and most recently voted against funding for jobs for teachers – a vote he cast only one day after promising to support the funding.
Protest organizers say that labor and its allies need to fight back and remind voters that lawmakers like Kirk are beholden to Wall Street, which they say created the economic crisis and should pay the costs of repairing the damage.
“We’re protesting to set the record straight on who the unemployed really are,” said Susan Hurley, executive director of Chicago Jobs with Justice. Those who are demonstrating are particularly angry about statements by various Republican legislators that have described the jobless as “lazy drug addicts unwilling to work,” she added.
Wednesday’s protest, which will be duplicated in dozens of cities nationwide aims to urge lawmakers to pass legislation that is in the best interest of working people, according to Hurley.
“We still have 15 million people unemployed and economists are saying it’s going to take at least 11 years to get back on track, and that’s too long,” she said. “We need elected officials to act on this now because too many American families are still in crisis mode and the best way to turn this around is to put money back into people’s pockets.”
Jobs with Justice has been calling for a massive, federally funded jobs creation program along the lines of the Depression-era WPA, which put millions to work constructing and repairing public works projects.
Carole Ramsden, who will speak at the rally, is a construction electrician and activist with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134. She has been unemployed since Feb. 2009.
“We’re fighting for the extension of unemployed benefits,” she said. “I didn’t choose to be unemployed or to not have a job. What we need is a larger more comprehensive jobs bill like the Worker’s Progress Administration Act passed in the 1930s under President Roosevelt,” she argues.
In order to turn the economy around we need to be thinking long-term, she said. “And Congress ought to be thinking about the needs of working people and not just getting re-elected.”
Both Hurley and Ramsden plan to mobilize for the October 2nd One Nation Working Together march on Washington D.C. being organized by a coalition of labor, religious and civil rights groups for jobs, peace and education.
Activists note people are angry and demoralized due to corporate greed and recklessness that has driven the country into an economic crisis, and leaders in Washington have yet to offer any real solutions.
Meanwhile banks are making bumper earnings and major corporations are raking in record profits and sitting on more than $8 trillion in cash reserves.
Protesters are demanding that Congress pass the Local Jobs for America Act, which would save or create 1 million jobs; extend emergency Temporary Assistance to Needy Families subsidized jobs program; extend emergency unemployment compensation; and pass a financial speculation tax that would rein in the more destabilizing aspects of Wall Street and generate $200-$500 billion annually.
The message, activists say, is aimed at Congress: If you won’t act to create jobs, then maybe you don’t deserve to have a job.
“We need to pull together, especially those of us that don’t have jobs,” said Ramsden.
“Democrats can’t roll over and let the Republicans control the scene and unless people begin to fill confident, then the Republicans will win,” she says.
“We need to feel excited, but people are so pissed off right now because we want real change.”
Ramsden says there have been improvements but a lot more needs to be done. She says we need to change the economic structure and allow working people to have the power and decide their outcome. “Workers are opposed to corporate bosses. Give us a chance to run things for a while to make the world run better.”
Ramsden hopes hundreds of thousands will show their force, and march on Oct. 2.
“The corporations and Wall Street have run the economy into the ground and we have to let the politicians know we’re not going to take it anymore,” she said.
Photo: (John Bachtell/PW)