Activists Demand Action on Jobs

North Texas Jobs with Justice initiated a news conference on July 2, 2010, and a broad group of progressive leaders responded!

Activists come together on jobs crisisThis crisis is immoral

Among them were a faith leader, a community organizer, and several unionists. The Reverend Ed Middleton of First Community Church read scripture and interpreted Bible verses to show that people must become involved in the most just cause of today -- survival!

Stop the layoffs!

Christopher Head of the Steelworkers union talked about the cuts hanging over the heads of Dallas City employees. He told the assembled newspersons, including three television crews, that Keynesian economics should be used to rescue workers from the ravages of unemployment, just as it was used in the last great jobs crisis.

Mickey Morris, Texas President of the National Association of Letter Carriers said that there is no reason for the post office to go through with plans to end Saturday mail service. It would cause more tens of thousands of layoffs and would diminish our ability to communicate through the mails.

Join together

Perry Forshee, who organized the previous week's "Rally for Poor People," says that all progressive groups and individuals must come together to resolve the crisis. Pete Jimenez, Vice President of UAW 848 in the Aerospace industry told the reporters, in English and Spanish, that employers are happily using the employment crisis to pressure all wages and benefits downward. A recent Pew survey revealed that more than half of all American workers acknowledge that the jobs crisis is hurting them.

Long-term unemployed activist Brad Walker literally "stole the show" when he talked about his struggles to make a living and to avoid becoming one of the millions of "discouraged workers" who cannot get a job, but are not counted as officially "unemployed" because they can't face job hunting any longer. Newspersons interviewed Walker at length, long after other speakers had left.

Statistics say down is up!

The occasion was the First Friday monthly release of new unemployment figures. Even though the "official" unemployment rate had gone down two points, the Associated Press had explained that job creation had been insufficient. The only reason that the "official" rate, based not on hard data but on a telephone survey, had declined was because over 600,000 more workers had joined the "discouraged" category and thus were not considered unemployed.

The overall point of the event was that progressive people and organizations are coming together for this fight.

Brad Walker made a fine graphic presentation of my lengthy statement. The text is below.

In solidarity, Gene




Statement of Gene Lantz, 7/2/10

I initiated this news conference to show that progressive organizations are drawing together to call for government action on the jobs crisis. Every time new unemployment statistics are released, it becomes more apparent that the crisis is not diminishing. When Republicans in the Senate like Senators Cornyn and Hutchinson block even the most trivial possibility of solution, it is apparent that individuals and their organizations must take a hand.

I invited leaders who are African American and Latino specifically because, no matter how bad the combined unemployment figures look, the calamity is far worse for Americans of color. I invited representatives of the postal workers, because they are facing the threat of ending Saturday mail delivery and tens of thousands of more layoffs. I invited the city workers because they are facing big layoffs. I invited union leaders because they are painfully aware that employers are trying, with some success, to use the unemployed to drive down everybody’s wages and benefits. Fifty percent of all American workers now acknowledge that they have been hit by the recession.

Government action is the only real solution today, just as it was the only solution in the last great employment crisis. Workers cannot survive without government action, and the economy will not significantly improve without it. For those who handed out billions to bankers but stinted the workers and then cried, “we can’t increase the deficit!” the answer is simple. Big corporations and their owners have benefited from 30 years of tax cuts, deregulation, handouts, and corporate welfare. Reverse that process and there is money to spare. For example, the AFL-CIO has called for a simple transactions tax to generate revenue and limit Wall Street speculation. The Texas AFL-CIO has asked that the Rainy Day fund be spent before laying off thousands of state workers.

It has become clear that a mighty movement is needed to get government action. Organizations like the NAACP, the Autoworkers, the AFL-CIO, and Jobs with Justice are organizing a March on Washington for October 2. We will cooperate locally with that movement.

American workers are dying a death of a thousand cuts. We must join together and fight, or bleed to death, separately!

Gene Lantz, Organizer, North Texas Jobs with Justice

Who will fight for the unemployed?
This week, The New York Times published an editorial that argued -- as Economic Policy Institute has long stated -- that persistent unemployment was a bigger threat than rising deficits. "Without doubt, the two biggest threats to the economy are unemployment and the dire financial condition of the states, yet lawmakers have failed to deal intelligently with either one," said the June 29 editorial, “Who will fight for the unemployed?”

The CCC, a nationwide program for young men that focused on natural resources from 1933 to 1942, was very active in Texas. At its peak in 1935 the corps had twenty-seven camps in Texas constructing recreational parks and an additional seventy camps for work in forest and soil conservation. Because assignment to states was random, many Texans participated in other states' CCC camps, joining some 2,500,000 men across the country. Most men earned thirty dollars a month, and were required to send at least twenty-five dollars of that to their families.

In addition to this economic aid, the CCC left an architectural legacy in Texas, seen today in buildings in thirty-one state parks and several city and county parks. The NYA also greatly benefited Texans, specifically those of ages sixteen to twenty-five. Under the leadership of twenty-seven-year-old Lyndon Baines Johnson, the state program provided support for high school students in 248 counties as well as for young people in eighty-three colleges and universities.

For two years, beginning in the summer of 1935, Johnson employed 10,000 to 18,000 students a month "at various part-time clerical or maintenance jobs earning a maximum $6.00 per month in high school and $15.00 in college." In out-of-school work programs he hired more than 12,000 young Texans who, in turn, constructed 250 roadside parks, graveled the shoulders of 2,000 miles of highway, improved or built recreational facilities in seventy-six state parks, and refurbished the playgrounds of public schools. Because of Johnson, NYA programs helped 19,000 young African Americans, the primary requisite for selection being that of "need."

But the emergency public employment programs of the PWA and WPA were equally if not more helpful to the state economy. In Fort Worth, for example, these federal agencies expended $15 million on a variety of projects. From 1935 to 1938 they "completely modernized the entire school system," historian John McClung asserted, "making it one of the best in the state." The PWA constructed thirteen school buildings and made additions to thirteen more, while rehabilitating most of the existing structures. In conjunction with these projects, the agency "landscaped and beautified fifty-four of the existing sixty-three school grounds." These agencies also provided funds for red-brick roads, some of which are still in existence, the 12,000-seat concrete high school stadium named Farrington Field, Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum and Auditorium, John Peter Smith City-County Hospital, a new city hall and jail, a new public library, and the famous Fort Worth Rose Garden.

Together with the Federal Writers' Project, whereby scholars were hired to index newspapers and record local history, the Federal Theater Project and the Federal Art Project provided money for artists and thespians to develop their crafts.

The Handbook of Texas on Line (excerpt)