With the nation's official jobless rate 9.7 percent and expected to surge higher than 10 percent, calls are growing for President Obama and Congress to create a federal jobs program to create millions of green, living-wage jobs.
"A second economic stimulus is needed," said Dr. Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg, chair of the National Jobs For All Coalition (NJFAC) in a phone interview with the World. "The first one, at most, reduced our unemployment only by about one third."
NJFAC will convene a conference in New York City Nov. 13-14 to mobilize a nationwide movement for full employment.
This time, she said, the stimulus package should allocate most of the federal funds to "direct federal jobs creation, by far the most efficient method of creating jobs." The first $792 billion package included $150 billion in tax cuts, the least efficient job-creation strategy. Goldberg said "We estimate there are 30 million unemployed and under-employed workers in the U.S. today," Goldberg said. "The official jobless rate is 14.9 million or 9.7 percent. But there is another 14.7 million who are not counted, the hidden unemployed." The combined total is 29.6 million or 18.5 percent of the labor force, she said. It includes part-time workers who want full-time jobs and "discouraged" workers who have given up the search for nonexistent jobs.
"We don't want to go back to the ‘Good Old Days' of chronic unemployment of five percent or more," she said. "We need a full-employment economy that provides living-wage jobs for every worker who wants one."
She spoke as Obama traveled to Wall Street Sept. 14 - the first anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers - to warn financiers that he is determined to push through Congress tougher regulation of investment banks blamed for the financial meltdown and the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Then Tuesday Sept. 15, Obama flew to Lordstown, Ohio to meet with union autoworkers to claim credit for stabilizing the economy even as the unemployment rate continues to rise.
The coalition's two-day full-employment conference will be held at the headquarters of District Council 37 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and at the Inter-Church Center, both in Manhattan. Confirmed speakers include Bill Quigley, the famed New Orleans law professor, now legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who championed the cause of victims of Hurricane Katrina, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Peter Knowlton, Northeast Regional President United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers (UE), Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs, Lillian Roberts, Executive Director DC-37 AFSCME, Philip Harvey, Prof. of Law and Economics, Rutgers University, Dr. Goldberg, author of the Feminization of Poverty and professor of Social Work at Adelphi University, and many more.
"Our country is in the throes of an economic crisis, the most severe since the Great Depression," says the conference "Call to Action." Unemployment is "at a disaster level....Nearly 30 million workers are already fully or partially jobless. Unemployment may exceed 10 percent through 2011. This is the most drastic job loss since the Great Depression. Many long-term unemployed will lose benefits, savings, homes...."
The call concludes, "Now is the time to organize and mobilize to create a just economy - one that assures living-wage jobs for all, sustains the environment and repairs our social and physical infrastructure."
Endorsers of the conference include the National Council of Churches, AFSCME District Council 37, Local 1180-Communications Workers of America, United Methodist Church General Board of Social Ministries, National Association of Social Workers and many other organizations with a combined membership of millions. Individual sponsors include AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, former U.S. Labor Secretaries Robert Reich and Ray Marshall, Economic Policy Institute President Lawrence Mishel, economists, Jeff Faux and James K. Galbraith, philanthropist Bernard Rapoport, and African American scholars, Cornel West and Manning Marable.
In an open letter explaining the jobs conference, Goldberg added that goals include stimulating a "public debate" on an "agenda for permanent living-wage jobs for all to meet human needs in a sustainable economy." It also includes launching "a broad-based movement to counter the forces of reaction and support and expand the progressive impulses of the Obama Administration."
Finally, the conference will "plan a national mobilization in Washington. D.C. on behalf of living-wage jobs for all."
NJFAC had already developed a "Drive for Decent Work" to create good, green jobs rebuilding the "crumbling physical infrastructure and a neglected social infrastructure," she wrote. "We identified unmet needs in child, health, elder and health care, in affordable housing and in public transportation. And we pointed to the need to repair bridges, levees, and public schools. Public investment in both types of infrastructure would create jobs that mostly stay in the U.S. and that build the basis for a more productive and prosperous nation."