Fight for Jobs,
Defense of Health Care
By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue
“Soooouuuuweee! Yipyipyip!” is not a usual sound you’d expect to hear bouncing of the granite walls of downtown Pittsburgh’s financial district. Farm folks, however, would recognize it immediately as a way to get the hogs scrambling over to the trough to feed.
But that was the point of the April 1 rally called by the area’s AFL-CIO leaders demanding a massive jobs program. They were trying to focus the attention of political leaders on Wall Street and the need to tax its billions, especially given the huge public bailout, to finance a new green manufacturing and clean energy industrial expansion.
“Labor creates all their wealth to begin with,” declared Rev. Ken Love, a Presbyterian minister, to the crowd of about 50 at the City-County Building. He pointed to a large chart showing the billions in profits and bonuses, along with the billions in bailout money, gathered by the largest Wall St investment banks over the past year. “All that wealth came from us, but it’s not being used it our interest. Now’s the time to use it to create new jobs.”
Western Pennsylvania has been hard hit by the current unemployment. Like the rest of the country, its current rate hovers around 10% and reaches 17% when the underemployed are counted. Among younger African Americans, the rate soars to 35%. But the situation is made more difficult by the decades-long deindustrialization of the region by capital chasing lower wages and less environmental protection abroad.
Beaver County Peace Links was represented with a placard stating, “Stop the Wars Now! Jobs for All!”
The AFL-CIO’s action was part of a national effort in some 30 cities over the past week pushing its five-point jobs program. It includes extended unemployment benefits, rebuilding infrastructure, support for state budgets to hold back layoffs, green jobs at a living wage, and a tax on Wall St financial transactions to pay for it all.
Another rally chanting ‘Drop the Suit!’ took place earlier outside the office of Pennsylvania State’s Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett just around the corner. About 25 activists were pulled together by Pennsylvania Communities Organizing for Change to demand that Corbett drop out of the ‘states rights’ lawsuit against the recent health insurance reform bill. Corbett’s move is largely viewed as a ploy to gather rightwing Tea Party support in the upcoming election. Several organizers from the United Steel Workers also attended.
“This health reform wasn’t all we wanted,” declared PCOC’s Lucille Prater-Holliday. “But this suit is an outrageous waste of the taxpayers’ money against the taxpayers.” She also introduced Lillian Allen to the rally, a 102-year-old Pittsburgh community resident. “We all need health care,” said Allen. “We need unity, not officials blocking us for their own advantage.”
As the rally attendees filled out citizen complaint sheets and attempted to enter the building, they were blocked by security guards. Staffers from Corbett’s office, however, quickly showed up at the door and received the complaints.