WASHINGTON – “When is enough, enough?” asked Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president, during his remarks on day two of the Take Back the American Dream conference held here. Wall Street tycoons want more tax breaks for the rich and less regulation, he said.
“We have to move our country’s focus from the cold profits of a corporate and financial elite centered on Wall Street,” said Trumka. “Millions are out of work, millions are being thrown out of their homes and the bonuses keep flowing and Wall Street wants more tax cuts for corporations, less regulation so they can do what they just did to us all over again.”
He said people nationwide are asking, “What ever happened to the promise of America and how can we build an independent movement to rebuild the American dream?”
And now Bank of America just announced it wants to charge its customers to use their own money when they shop with their debit cards, noted Trumka.
“Meanwhile 25 million Americans are desperately looking for full time work,” he said, adding, “joblessness for youth is through the roof and one out of three Latino and black children are living in poverty [in] the land of liberty and the richest nation on the face of the earth. And the wealthy CEOs across the country are getting over a 23 percent pay raise. What kind of strange morality is this?”
Over the past 30 years the median wealth of African American households fell by two-thirds, said Trumka. “Its now $2,200. Let that sink in. The pain, the loss. When are we going to recognize this is a crisis, not a debt crisis, it’s a jobs crisis,” he declared.
Trumka discussed the importance of having a job and a skilled trade.
“Work isn’t just what supports our family. It defines us. It’s how we contribute to the world and it connects all of us,” he said.
“We the people are angry, and who can blame us?” he said. “Where will that anger go? Toward hate and extremism? Or building a future that works for everyone that lives and works in America?
“Today we have a tea party that’s inspired by the right-wing and banking on an upside down America on its path toward political power.”
But the tea party and conservative forces say there is no money for jobs, said Trumka. They want to keep people hurting and angry, he charged. They want to fan the flames of anti-government by making sure our government looks dysfunctional, and their main method is to divide and conquer, he said.
“For example they’re trying to pit ordinary taxpayers against public employees, jobless Americans against immigrants and they’re trying to make sure the electorate of 2012 doesn’t look anything like it did in 2008 with voter suppression attempts under so-called voter ID laws.”
Working people are also gearing up to face what the Super Committee will propose next month, Trumka pointed out.
“And we’ll fight anyone from any party who wants to cut much earned entitlements like Social Security or Medicare,” he emphasized.
“It’s pretty clear about what we have to do, and I think the people in this room are ready to do it. Now is the time for a mighty movement for jobs and a just economy. America wants to work and we wont stop pushing, fighting, shoving and kicking until every last one of us is working.”
The first thing needed is passage of Obama’s American jobs plan and his demand that billionaires and millionaires who profited so handsomely pay their fair share of taxes to create jobs, said Trumka.
Sometimes it’s appropriate to be critical of the president, noted Trumka. “But when Obama is doing the courageous thing, then it’s time for us to have his back and help him push that jobs bill through Congress.”
He continued, “It’s time to turn up the heat for a massive militant movement for jobs. This has to be an American movement for jobs to turn the country right side up and put working people at the top of the heap, not at the bottom of the heap.”
Schools, bridges, roads, transit systems are a wreck, and a federal jobs program can help put people back to work to fix them, said Trumka.
“In order to win we have to come together with open arms and build coalitions to reach out together, because what unites us all is so much greater than anything that divides us.”
“We’re here today to support this demand: that Wall Street pay its fair share. We have got a long way to go and the road will be rocky and rough and we’ll fall down, but when we get up we’ll keep marching.”
Trumka said some will argue we can’t afford to pay for jobs and that America is broke. The truth is America isn’t broke; it’s America’s politics that’s broke, he said.
Trumka scorned the GOP’s claim that Obama is causing class warfare and trying to divide Washington.
“But in reality it wasn’t our class that started the war, and if they really want to have a debate on class warfare, then I say to them: bring it on!”
To roaring applause, Trumka declared, “It’s time to take this country back for the working people that built this nation from the bottom up. Its up to us to raise the level of workers’ expectations so they realize good jobs, health care, retirement security, time off to spend with family, a quality elementary and higher education for their children are basic fundamental rights they deserve. These expectations will enable us to create a better America and an economy that works for everyone, not just the few,” he said.
Photo: Pepe Lozano/PW