The AFL-CIO and others are calling for immediate and powerful grassroots action in support of new jobs legislation. Even though the "Miller Bill" does not melt away America's jobs crisis, it represents concrete progress today, according to Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of America's main labor federation.
Shuler joined Wade Henderson, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in an April 12 telephone conference on the bill, whose formal title is the Local Jobs for America Act (HR 4812).
Over 200 participants from 44 states participated. Speakers also included Alan Charney, campaign manager for Jobs for America Now, www.jobs4americanow.org and Gordon Lafer representing House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., who had been called away on an emergency.
The Miller Bill would allocate federal funds to create or save up to one million jobs in local governments. Money would provide 100 percent government-paid, full-time jobs with benefits. The average wage would be around $30,000.
All of the speakers enthusiastically supported the bill, even though they pointed out that it is only a "piece of the puzzle" to repair an economy with 26 million unemployed and underemployed workers. Secretary-Treasurer Shuler stated emphatically that union support for this legislation would in no way blunt the AFL-CIO's demand for full implementation of its five-point program to resolve the crisis. She summarized the five points:
1. Invest in green jobs to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure
2. Maintain funding for vital services by state and local governments
3. Take additional steps to extend unemployment and health care lifelines
4. Increased funding for neglected communities
5. Use the leftover TARP money to get credit flowing again to Main Street
Coincidentally, an Associated Press article by Andrew Taylor was released on the same day, headlined, "Obama's jobs agenda stalls in Congress. 7 months before midterm elections, most of program going nowhere." The article says that Democrats expect an extension of unemployment insurance and health insurance benefits to pass, and that it will be followed by a larger bill, presumably the Local Jobs for America Act. It is called "the biggest piece of the jobs agenda with a good chance to pass into law."
Shuler and the other speakers on the conference call praised the grassroots efforts that are now under way. The bill now has more than 100 of the 212 congressional co-sponsors necessary for passage. The AFL-CIO called for and succeeded in mobilizing over 200 public actions in March and are now calling for monthly activities. Jobs with Justice and other progressive organizations, they said, are holding events at banks on Tax Day, April 15. Shuler urged the call participants to "get the grassroots to weigh in!"