Shifting Gears: On the Offensive for Jobs, Health Care, and Housing
From September 24th through October 1st, activists and workers in dozens of cities took to the streets as part of Jobs with Justice’s week of action demanding economic recovery for working America. We covered a lot of ground, connected some dots along the way, and observed the 1 year anniversary of Bush’s TARP (bailout) program the same way we welcomed it – on the streets and in opposition to corporate welfare.
With a national economy that continues to lose jobs, more and more homes being lost, and a debate around health care going nowhere unless we step up to the plate and mobilize for it, Jobs with Justice coalitions across the country brought diverse communities together to challenge those most responsible for the current crisis.
U.S. September Job Cuts Exceeded Forecasts, Unemployment Rose – and many believe that we’ll easily pass the 10% figure officially in terms of unemployment (which some argue puts us closer to 20% unemployment). A report by the AFL-CIO found that workers under 35 are worse off than they were ten years ago, and given the current economic reality are having a harder time getting and keeping a job.
Stop to think about what it means to have 1 out of every 5 workers in the country out of work. What will the impact be on homes and families across the country?
Well we aren’t going to wait around and let it get worse.
Massachusetts JwJ’s mobilization last week brought together over 80 organizations from the area to march for good jobs and an economy that focuses on working people. Workers facing giant odds - whether they were Hyatt housekeepers, Verizon technicians, or young workers unable to get jobs – came together to voice their demand and flex their power, sending a message to corporate criminals that we’re in this together should they want to pick a fight.
In Providence, Rhode Island JwJ was involved in helping to pass an ordinance that prevents giant corporations like Hyatt from firing unionized employees in order to make short-term profits.
While many are saying that what is needed is a national jobs program to address large unemployment needs, it’s important to remember that we can’t forget about the jobs that already exist. We must stop the corporate “race to the bottom” by coming together and making every job in the U.S. a job with justice.
All across the country one hears tragic stories about people being evicted from their homes. While the Government and other agencies are trying to jump in and address the situation, the bad job market and economy are making the problem harder to address.
Working people, neighbors, and communities must come together to protect one another and our right to a roof over our heads.
In Detroit’s East English Village, Belva Davis is facing foreclosure. Like so many homeowners, she fell behind on her mortgage due to unemployment. Belva found another job and thought she’d be able to keep her home, but Wachovia/ Wells Fargo is refusing to modify her mortgage loan -- even though the bank received $2.8 billion in taxpayer money to modify mortgages ON TOP OF $25 billion in bailout money. Last week more than 50 of her neighbors and supporters came out to protest the bank’s refusal to work with Belva.
In New Smyrna Beach, Central Florida JwJ played an instrumental role mobilizing in support of tenants who were left out in the cold when the owner foreclosed on the property and failed to pay the bills. Tenants went without the basic necessity of water for three weeks as the city initially refused to help tenants. Once the residents got organized and went public with a press conference, the water turned back on less than 24 hours later. They are also owed triple-pay in rent plus damages.
Perhaps no fight better symbolizes the crossroads the country is at right now than the current debate over health care reform. Over the past few months, we’ve seen both the insurance industry and the anti-reform reactionaries launch misleading attacks on any movement in the direction of a more affordable, efficient, and humane healthcare system. Whether fighting for a strong public option or working for single-payer coverage, JwJ has maintained our focus on the work of mobilizing people for this critical fight.
We are keeping the pressure on for health care on the state, national, and local levels.
In Burlington, the Vermont Workers Center/JwJ held a packed forum bringing legislators and the community together to have an honest and deeper conversation around healthcare. The community asked the elected officials to sign-on and commit to supporting their “Healthcare is a Human Right” campaign. After powerful testimony from workers, consumers, and community members, they each affirmed their support for the campaign – bringing the Vermont Worker Center one step closer to its goal of making healthcare in Vermont a basic human right.
In Rhode Island, JwJ helped mobilize supporters of health care to support service workers at Brown University who are facing the loss of health care coverage at work. The students and community are gearing up for a fight to ensure these workers don’t lose what little they have. Following the rally at Brown, workers, students, and community supporters marched over to Whole Foods to keep the pressure on that company for recent remarks by Whole Foods’ CEO attacking the notion that everyone deserves good health care.
What’s Next? Chicago and the American Bankers Association
The next step in stopping the bailout bandits and fixing our economy will be three days of protests at the American Bankers Association.
JwJ and several union and community partners are calling for three days of actions at the American Bankers Association October 25-27, culminating in massive march on Tuesday, October 27.
Join the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka and Change To Win’s Anna Burger at the rally on Tuesday, October 27, 11am.
Putting thousands of people in the streets is our opportunity to shift public anger onto the real causes of the economic crash. JwJ can help change the debate back to the real needs of working families and their communities.
This political and economic moment is both the challenge and the opportunity of a lifetime. What we do in the next three years will shape the next 30.