Labor, allies line up behind new House jobs bill

Just 24 hours after the new Local Jobs for America Act was introduced into Congress by Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., unions and their allies are lining up to support the legislation which they say will create one million jobs.

The measure, the largest job-creation plan yet proposed in Congress this year, would provide $100 billion to fund wages and benefits for a million workers who would otherwise be unemployed.

Leaders of the nation’s mayors are among those already coming out in support of the bill.

Elizabeth Kautz, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and mayor of Burnsville, Minn., said the bill has already been endorsed by her organization. “Mayors know from experience that direct funding to cities can create and save jobs and do it quickly,” she said.

“Our research at the National League of Cities shows the ability of cities to meet their financial needs is now in jeopardy and will most likely worsen substantially through the rest of 2010,” Ronald Loveridge, mayor of Riverside, Calif. and president of the NLC, said in a statement. “The economy cannot recover if cities falter, and so federal action now is essential.” Loveridge was with Miller when he announced the bill yesterday.

Jobs for America Now, the country’s largest jobs coalition with more than 60 affiliated organizations, announced its support this morning. Alan Chaney, the coalition’s campaign manager, said, “The economy remains weak and the private sector cannot generate enough jobs to put us on a safe and sure path to recovery. With this bill Congress is finally taking action to create jobs.”

Randy Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, praised the portion of the bill that allocates $23 billion to help school districts keep 250,000 education jobs. “A child’s life moves on no matter the circumstances – there is no pause button on his or her education. Students need their teachers in classrooms, not on unemployment lines, and this new jobs measure will help keep educators in schools where they belong,” she said.

The Campaign for America’s Future issued a statement that said, “The legislation acknowledges a fundamental truth that conservatives refuse to face: You cannot put the economy back on a stable growth path without significant direct government spending on jobs.

Also praising the legislation, the Economic Policy Institute’s Vice President Ross Eisenberry said it would actually create more than the one million jobs estimated by Miller. “This is because of indirect job creation that happens when people have more money to spend at local businesses.”

Economists at the labor-backed EPI say timing of the bill’s announcement was “none too soon.” Heidi Shierholz described a labor market “stuck on pause” and said that “while official unemployment remained unchanged in February, underemployment actually increased, to 16.8 percent from 16.5 percent in January. Many workers who had kept their jobs were working less hours and all those lost work hours added up to 2.8 million full time jobs.”

She explained further that while 11.1 million jobs are needed to return to pre-recession levels of employment, the “effective” jobs gap is a much bigger 13.9 million, once lost work hours are factored in.

The bill provides $75 billion in grants to cities for 750,000 jobs providing needed local services.

It also funnels $22.5 billion directly to governors to distribute to cities with less than 50,000 people and to non-profit organizations and county governments to create similar types of jobs.

The legislation also allocates $23 billion to help states support an estimated 250,000 education jobs, $1.18 billion to put 5,500 law enforcement officers on the beat and $500 million to hire and retain fire fighters.

Five hundred million dollars  is also included for 50,000 on-the-job training position slots to help private small businesses expand employment.

Photo: Steve Rhodes/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.