Friday, November 21, 2008

Freeze foreclosures and heat up jobs plan, spirited rally tells Congress

By Pepe Lozano
People's Weekly World
Nov. 21, 2008

CHICAGO – Dozens of labor and community activists rallied here in front of the Federal Building Nov. 21 urging Congress to put a freeze on home foreclosures and to bail out Main Street, not Wall Street, with a stimulus package that includes a national jobs plan.

“We need Congress to take care of the needs of working people and not the rich,” said Carl Rosen, western region president of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. “What we need are policies that are going to keep people in their homes and that includes an immediate moratorium on foreclosures now,” added Rosen. “We need policies that are going to put people back to work. Working people need to earn livable wages so they can have real purchasing power again,” said Rosen.

Katie Jordan is the Chicago president of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and said, “We’re here today in coalition with our partners to raise our voices concerning what is going on with the $700 billion dollar bailout plan for Wall Street,” said Jordan. “Big bankers are expected to benefit from this bailout but more and more working people are losing their jobs and their homes,” she added.

“Home foreclosures are a serious matter and our communities are devastated,” said Jordan. “People’s families are having to split up just to find shelter.” African American and Latino communities are the first and worst ones hit by the foreclosure crisis including the rising unemployment rates, said Jordan.

“Working people’s allies including the labor movement is urging Congress to fix this problem right away including making it a priority to pass the Employee Free Choice Act once Obama becomes president, so that workers at their jobs can organize a union and fight for better working conditions for all,” said Jordan.

Kristen Cox, a consultant with the Institute for Policy Studies, a non-profit think tank noted that homeownership is the number one source of wealth for many Americans. But because of historical advantages enjoyed by whites through the GI Bill and other government programs, the sub-prime mortgage crisis has disproportionately affected African Americans, noted Cox.

“The African American middle class is in danger of losing between $71 billion and $92 billion of wealth due to bad sub-prime loans,” said Cox. “This is an unprecedented transfer of wealth from one community that will have serious consequences for the economic mobility of African Americans.”

Chicago Jobs With Justice organized the rally in coalition with a number of local labor and community groups. The event was organized to call on Congress to issue a freeze on all home foreclosures and support Illinois Senator Dick Durbin in his efforts to allow judicial intervention in restructuring mortgage rates for affected families. Speakers at the rally are also calling for a job-creating economic stimulus package with massive investment in infrastructure rebuilding and mass transit expansion.

“We need a bailout for Main Street that creates jobs,” said Elce Redmond, an organizer with the South Austin Coalition Community Council. “This situation can be an opportunity to create good jobs and deal with global warming at the same time,” added Redmond.

The labor movement along with environmental activists and grass roots community organizations has come together to echo a growing demand that congress seize this moment to create a “green economy” by expanding and pushing conservation policies, noted Redmond. “Congress can simultaneously address climate change and create millions of green jobs. It’s a win-win situation,” said Redmond.

The rally concluded with a small delegation led by James Thindwa, executive director of Chicago Jobs With Justice that delivered a written statement to Durbin’s office.

Thindwa said millions of working families nationwide are becoming victims in a vicious predatory lending system and losing their homes.

“We will go up and deliver a letter to Senator Durbin urging him to continue championing the cause of workers and families,” said Thindwa.

“We want to offer him our support and urge other members of Congress to fight hard for a moratorium on foreclosures and a strong economic stimulus package,” he said.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dawn of a new era

A seismic shift, a watershed moment, an electoral landslide or the dawn of a new era. No matter what the turn of phrase, Nov. 4, 2008, will go down in the history books as the beginning of the end of the 30-year political reign of the ultra-right and its vicious pro-corporate agenda, and the end of a beginning of new politics in the United States of America.

Convinced by the power of one man’s arguments for hope, unity and change, his program and example, a 52 percent majority of voters rejected the old politics of fear, racism and red-baiting and elected Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States.

Perhaps it was historically inevitable that this country elected its first African American president. The dynamics of slavery, race and racism, together with the historic role of the African American freedom movement in helping propel the expansion of democracy for all people, have always been a central narrative to the making of America.

An accident of history, maybe, is the fact that in 2009 the country will celebrate the bicentennial birthday of another tall, lanky, transformative figure from Illinois: Abraham Lincoln.

In this age of 24-hour news cycles and instant information, when a seismic victory happens it’s important to take a breath and reflect even while celebrating. There will be analysis in the coming weeks in our pages and web site. We’ll be taking closer looks at the many different actors, issues and developments.

But here is an initial take, a basic framework to ponder and analyze such a momentous moment. This was a victory for the whole U.S. working class. And workers of all job titles, professions, shapes, colors, sizes, hairstyles and languages put their indelible stamp on this victory.

This is an important point to ponder, not only for people here in the U.S., but also for our sisters and brothers around the world. The U.S. working class is pushing for a new day — in which our country can be a good global citizen and not the “rogue state” the Bush administration has projected.

The most organized section of the working class — the labor movement — played a stellar role in this election, organizing more than 250,000 labor activists in critical battleground states. But it was its role in challenging and educating union members on racial bias, coupled with a program for economic recovery, that labor proved its invaluable mettle.

A powerful coalition of forces, inspired towards a new kind of politics, bubbled up from the ground of discontent sown by the authoritarian, reckless and greed-driven policies of the Bush administration. Union members and retirees of all races and the African American people as a whole joined with the emerging political might of Latinos — Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans and others — and with women and young people en masse to successfully challenge the power of the ultra-right. And the seeds of a renewed and strengthened Jewish-Black unity — historically so key to civil rights progress — are taking root.

Such unity — as President-elect Obama said — of “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” is an idea that has been grasped by millions of people and made into a material force shattering the Republicans’ “Southern strategy” and forcing this party of the reactionary right into a meltdown.

The election outcome represents a clear mandate for pro-people change on taxes, health care, the war in Iraq, job creation and economic relief, union organizing and the Employee Free Choice Act. Reform and relief are in the air. Their scope and depth will be the arena of struggle. The best thing the coalition that won this victory can do is to stick together and help the new administration carry through on its promises. We suspect an Obama administration will have to govern from the center with progressive and left voices included in the dialogue along with conservatives. The ultra-right and corporate interests will do everything in their power to limit, and even steal, the people’s victory.

Jubilation and celebration, yes, along with realization that the hard work is just beginning.

People's Weekly World
Editorial, November 8, 2008