Sunday, February 27, 2011

Report from New Jersey

originally posted by Norman Markowitz on H-Labor Discussion Network

I've just come back from the AFL-CIO led Solidarity rally for Wisconsin Public Employees in Trenton, New Jersey. There will be I hope significant media coverage of the rally, in which thousands attended in very bad weather(pouring rain at points) to here Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CI0 and trade union leaders from New Jersey and Wisconsin, along with Civil Rights leaders, call for negotiation rather than dictatorial legislation in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, and other states.

There were teachers and fireman, trade unionists representing public employees and private sector employees in the crowd. And there was a labor historian or two who I ran into.

What was important at least to me about the rally was the understanding in the crowd that we are all under the gun through the country--that, as one of the speakers said, Republican Governors were reading from the same script.

In New Jersey, there was particular anger at a Governor who keeps on using the phrase "class warfare," and has his own Monty Python version of the class struggle--there are two classes in New Jersey, he keeps on saying, the privileged overpaid underworked public employees and the hard working tax payers they exploit. But whether the rhetoric from Republican leaders is as smooth as a used car salesman or as Archie Bunkeresque as Christie of New Jersey, everyone understood at the rally that the policy is the same across the country.

Which brings me to a point that wasn't really raised by speakers at the rally but was in the back of the minds of many in the crowd. What is the federal government, meaning the administration, doing to stand with labor, to stand with the voters who elected it in 2008.

Isn't it the responsibility of the Obama administration to say to the people that labor had nothing to do with the deregulation over the last thirty years that sparked the stock market crisis of 2008; that labor opposed the "detaxation" of the same period which concentrated more and more wealth in the hands of the top 5 percent of income earners while the overwhelmingly majority of income earners saw their purchasing power decrease and the personal debt rise.

There were Democratic politicians present at the rally but they didn't speak. Democrats were praised by speakers for walking out of Republican dominated legislatures to block these draconian policies, but shouldn't we expect much more than them and the Obama administration than that.

Perhaps the Obama administraiton might call for the federal government absorbing the budget deficits of those states which ended the cutbacks and began to invest in the people. All of the budget deficits of the states taken together are a fraction of what the administration pumped into the banks, the corporations and wall street. Isn't it time for the administration to begin to provide policies that seriously defend the interests of its core constituencies?

Norman Markowitz