Nationwide rallies against austerity

Footballs, dodge balls, and pumpkin pie were props used in some of the nationwide actions for fiscal fairness during the National Day of Action sponsored by the AFL-CIO and allies Jan. 30.  Labor and community activists in 60 cities and 29 states held rallies, marches, public leafleting and visits to Congressional offices demanding no cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, tax increases on corporations and the wealthy and cancellation of  across the board federal budget cuts scheduled for March 1.

In Seattle members of Washington Community Action Network, wearing athletic uniforms, threw dodge balls inscribed with the word “TAX” at each other during lunch hour in front of the downtown office of Wells Fargo, one of the “dirty thirty” giant corporations that pay no federal income tax.  Together with a group of 80 union members they marched to the Federal Building, held a rally and sent delegations to meet with aides in the offices of Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, said AFL-CIO representative Dianne Gross.

In Denver, Coloradans for Tax Fairness also flyered passersby in front of the Wells Fargo Bank as well as two other tax avoiding corporations, Verizon and CMS Energy, at the 16th St. Mall.  They organized phone calls and online petitions to Congress demanding the closing of corporate tax loopholes and no benefit cuts for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

“Stop Punting Responsibility” was the message union activists brought to the office of Republican Congressman Sean Duffy in Wausau, Wisc., as they kicked footballs with the word, “RESPONSIBILITY” on them and demanded that fiscal problems be addressed by making corporations pay their fair share.

In Portland, members of the Maine People’s Alliance presented staff of newly elected Sen. Angus King, an Independent, with a pumpkin pie.

“We wanted to welcome them to the neighborhood,” Kevin Simowitz told the People’s World, “and also make the point that the fiscal pie needs to be expanded to create jobs and rebuild the infrastructure.”  At the same time a delegation from the Maine AFL-CIO met with representatives of Congressman Mike Michaud in Lewiston, Simowitz said.

About 120 labor and community activists rallied in Miami at the office of GOP Senator Marco Rubio while a delegation met with his staff.  They reported that the aides stated Rubio was “not planning to make cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security,” AFL-CIO staff representative Jim Junecko said.

Junecko said he told the group that Congress must “close the tax loopholes on the top 2% and Wall Street” and create “good paying jobs to build the economy.”  Other speakers shared personal experiences showing how the earned social benefits had been critical to their lives.

“We had to keep correcting them on the word, ‘entitlements,'” Chris Erickson, political coordinator for the Utility Workers Local 270, told 100 gathered in Cleveland’s Public Square as he reported from a delegation that had just met with aides in GOP Sen. Rob Portman’s office.  “Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not ‘entitlements.’ They are earned benefits that we pay for and should not be cut.  Social Security has over 20 years of solvency and any problem can be easily solved by raising or eliminating the cap,” he said, referring to the fact that high earners stop paying Social Security tax when their income reaches $113,700.

“Let everybody know,” he said, as the crowd chanted “No Cuts Now!  No Cuts Ever!”

The event was organized by the No Cuts Coalition, and included speakers from the AFL-CIO, Senior Voice, Young Democrats, United Pastors in Mission, American Friends Service Committee and Policy Matters Ohio interspersed with original protest songs.

Michael Williams, a Social Security employee and member of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3448, described how a deficit of 8,000 jobs in the agency had been created by austerity policies that have drastically cut services to people, especially the elderly, seeking their hard earned benefits.

Derek Dissell, a student at Cleveland State Univ. and member of the Ohio Students Organization said he had been inspired by President Barack Obama’s Inauguration speech reaffirming the nation’s commitment to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and his call that “all of us are compelled to act in our time” to secure a better future.

The National Day of Action, coordinated through the AFL-CIO’s America Wants To Work coalition, was initiated after similar events were held in many cities in December at the time Congressional battles over the so-called “Fiscal Cliff.”

“Another showdown looms on the horizon in Washington as the Tea Party controlled GOP continues its reckless crusade to stonewall any reasonable legislation to fix the economy,” the group states on their website. “It’s another manufactured crisis and Republicans are holding the U.S. economy hostage.”

The coalition has scheduled a national call-in to Congress day for Feb. 12 and another round of public demonstrations for Feb. 20.

Photo: AFL-CIO Facebook page



Rick Nagin
Rick Nagin

Rick Nagin has written for People's World and its predecessors since 1970. He has been active for many years in Cleveland politics and the labor movement.