SACRAMENTO - Over 1000 workers and union activists gathered in the state capital on a working day recently in a spirited rally for job-creating legislation.
Unfortunately, AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka, snowbound in Washington, D.C., wasn't able to appear. His place was taken by union leaders and rank-and-file activists along with legislative and Congressional figures.
"Arnold (Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) believes that the economy will fix itself - he's still reading from the George Bush hymnal," joked Art Pulaski, executive secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, after reporting that 2 million Californians are out of work, and there is 30% unemployment in construction. "The low road economy has failed the people." he added.
"I'm tired of being in budget crises," declared Yvonne Walker, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000, which represents most California state employees.
"It's time for us to hit the streets and demand jobs for each and every one of us." Walker said as she introduced a Local 1000 member, Renee Lee, who described how the 14% pay cut caused by Schwarzenegger's furlough policy has put her house in foreclosure and left her and a five-year-old adopted grandchild in poverty.
"I'm tired of my baby asking why we don't have any money," said Lee.
"Legislators need to get off their asses," said Operating Engineers Local 3 member, Charles Bynum, after describing how his months of employment have decreased in each of the last three years. Now he is looking for a job to maintain medical insurance and help his family. "Many of my brothers and sisters are in the same situation," he added.
"When you spend your money, it keeps the economy going, said Bynum." It doesn't work going in reverse."
"The only way we are going to grow and maintain a tax base is to create jobs now" said California Senate President Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg from Sacramento.
"This is my 10th year in the legislature and my 10th budget," he said. "Every year is the same: cuts, fights and the two-thirds vote, which we have to change." In California, a two-thirds majority is required to pass a state budget or any tax increase, while a tax decrease only needs a majority vote.
"We need to get going on high speed rail so 50,000 people can get to work" Steinberg added. "And restoring vocational education in our schools, and ending the furlough policy."
Commenting on the two-third law, Sacramento Central Labor Council Executive Secretary Bill Camp, who emceed the rally, said, "We need to remind people that this is a democracy, where the majority rules."
Congressman and former Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi told the demonstrators that in the perspective of Washington, the job crisis didn't begin with the Obama administration. "It's the fault of the horrible policy of the Bush administration," he said. "We want the TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) money back for jobs, and it's not nearly enough."
The country needs to bring back WPA (Works Program Administration) of the 1930s, when federal funds built, libraries, schools and bridges, Garamendi said.
Photo: Marilyn Bechtel/ Denise Solis, SEIU Local 1877 Northern California vice president at demonstration on the "green cleaning" issue.