"Fight or Starve" read the headlines of a leaflet being distributed by the Unemployed Council members in 1933. Flash forwards 76 years and it’s Labor Day 2009. A year ago the collapse of Lehman Brothers set off a worldwide melt down of the banking system and the biggest world economic crisis since the 1930s. One year later, after more than 13 trillion dollars of help from the government, they say Wall Street is okay. As finance ministers prepare for the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh this month, the spin is that the recovery is here or near and that U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke saved the country and the planet from a second great depression.
Saved who from a depression? The official unemployment rate in Detroit , Michigan is 29%. That’s depression-level unemployment. But it’s not just Detroit . While the official national unemployment rate just edged up to 9.7%, when the unemployed and underemployed who are not counted in the official rate are added, it’s really closer to 17%. For teenagers it’s a whopping 25% and for African-American young adults it’s closer to 50%.
We're talking about depression-level unemployment. The rate of home foreclosures continues to soar and it’s only going to get worse.
High unemployment affects every worker. Why? Because it drives down wages and benefits across the board and weakens or breaks union contracts. The real news is that things are never going to be the same unless we do something about it. The jobs that were lost are not coming back. The global economic crisis that hit the fan a year ago has ushered in a permanent and ever-escalating war on the working class and the poor. There will be no more respites of peace and prosperity for most of us.
The only question is what are the workers going to do about it? What are the labor unions going to do about it? What are organizations and activists who are dedicated to social and economic justice going to do about it? Will there be a massive fight back of the kind we haven’t seen since the workers said “we’re not taking anymore” in the early and mid-1930s and then proceeded to stop evictions, organize, strike, occupy factories and scare the hell out of the powers that be?
There’s no nice way of putting this. If poor and working people don’t start fighting back we are going to be destroyed by the greedy, profits before people, rich sociopaths from all the Wall Streets all over the globe.
The eyes of the world will be on Pittsburgh in a few days because the heads of governments and their head bankers will be meeting there to talk about how they can continue their jobless recovery on the backs of the working people of the world.
On Sunday, Sept. 20, the first day of the week of the G20 summit, there’s going to be a major march for jobs. Unemployed and homeless people and their supporters will be coming to Pittsburgh for the march for jobs. With the support of some labor including the United Steelworkers union--which is headquartered in Pittsburgh --and the support of the Black community in Pittsburgh , the march for jobs will assemble in the historic Black community of Pittsburgh known as “The Hill”. The goal of the march is to revive the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. devoted the final days of his life to--a second civil rights movement for the right of all to a decent paying job. After the march and rally that day, many will return to a patch of land next to the Monumental Baptist Church on the Hill, where they will live in a tent city dedicated to the unemployed people of the world for the rest of the G20 summit week.
Everything has to start sometime and somewhere. Maybe we can help start the fight back in Pittsburgh this month. Will you be there? Find a bus, a car, a van or a train headed towards Pittsburgh and bring everyone you can with you. Go to BailOutPeople.org.
March For Jobs and Tent City Conveners include:
Bail Out The People Movement
Picture The Homeless
The Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign
Peoples Organization For Progress
May 1st Coalition for Immigrant and Workers Rights
United Electrical Union
United Steelworkers union
San Francisco Central Labor Council
Million Worker March Movement
Local 10 ILWU
Peoples Fight Back Campaign
Moratorium Now! Coalition Against Foreclosures and Evictions
Pastors For Peace
If your community, union or student group is not already on board—there is still time to get involved.
* Endorse – Organize – and Mobilize!VERY IMPORTANT: Please REGISTER for the Tent City.
* Distribute flyers and send out email notices.
* Bring a bus, van or car from your city, town or neighborhood – tell us so we can plan parking.
* Donate $ so that those without funds can attend.
If you are going to be participating at the ‘Solidarity with the Unemployed’ Tent City following the March 4 Jobs—it’s critical to register to make sure there are resources and space available. Space is limited. Pre-registration is required.
Register at http://www.bailoutpeople.org/septg20register.shtml