Labor honors workers who died 9/11

NEW YORK – Tens of thousands of union members gathered at Battery Park here Sept. 3, just blocks from where the World Trade Towers used to stand. They came to honor the 600 union members and thousands of other workers who died last Sept. 11 and to declare to the Bush Administration that national security will not be used as a pretext to impede workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively.

In addition to the physical and emotional devastation, Sept. 11 took an enormous economic toll. As a result of the terrorists’ attacks, 80,000 people, nearly two-thirds of the total job loss suffered in New York since 2001, are still unemployed.

Brian M. McLaughlin, President of NYC Central Labor Council said, “workers’ concerns are not on the Bush Administrations radar screen.” Adding, “and in recent months, corporate scandals led to major layoffs and loss of pensions, savings and benefits. Investors are loosing confidence in the system. Working people should not shoulder the burden of greedy corporate executives.”

Commenting on the still-pending Homeland Security Act, Roseanne Ponlino, President of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1151, said, “we aren’t gonna let the President hide behind the veil of terrorism. Government employees are a secure workforce. Our workers protect the Homeland.”

The industries hardest hit by the terrorists’ attacks were air transport, restaurant, retail, garment manufacturing, hotels and building services. According to a press release by James Parrot, Chief Economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute, World Trade Tower workers were disproportionately low-income (at least 60 percent) and well over half were immigrant workers (56 percent). Parrot went on to add, “many dislocated and under-employed workers risk eviction, foreclosure and personal bankruptcy. These conditions will worsen in the months ahead since New York remains mired in recession …”

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, in keeping with the “No More Business As Usual” theme said, the Bush Administration “let corporate pirates break our laws. They let greedy employers steal our pensions. And they let multinational corporations ship our jobs overseas.” Sweeney also said we need to “replace corporate controlled politicians with working people.”

The AFL-CIO has set a goal of electing 4,000 trade unionists to public offices by the 2004 elections and of electing a pro-worker majority to the Senate and Congress this November.

The writer can be reached at tonypec@pww.org