A record 26 million jobless or underemployed U.S. workers are the human evidence that rosy reports of the end of the economic crisis are false through and through. Nothing debunks the lie of recovery so clearly as unrelentingly high unemployment. Left out of the already ghastly official rate of 8-9 percent are millions of people who have exhausted their benefits, given up looking for work, or accepted part-time or low-paying jobs for bare survival. Youth of color are hit especially hard by the real unemployment rate of about 20 percent; nearly half are jobless.
Job growth continues to lag far behind what’s needed. It is not even keeping pace with new young entrants into the workforce, let alone expanding enough to restore jobs to those who have lost them. The Obama administration promotes payroll tax cuts and other employer giveaways like the recent, bipartisan JOBS Act as job-creating incentives. But, despite all the corporate welfare, the private sector continues to destroy jobs rather than create them. In words, President Obama condemns “trickle down” economics, but his policies are Reaganomics revived, with the same effect.
Things are no better in the public sector, where 590,000 jobs have been slashed since Obama took office. Those in charge rationalize this purge by invoking not only the economic crisis but also the right-wing, inhumane ideology of “less government.” But the public sector is exactly where government has the ability to make a direct, immediate improvement in people’s lives. This is especially true for the women, people of color, and immigrants who are the main providers of the social safety net as workers and who, along with children, are also most likely to need help. The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) presidential campaign calls for an immediate end to the outsourcing, privatization, and elimination of much- needed public-service jobs.
FSP presidential candidate Stephen Durham, the party’s New York City organizer, and vice-presidential candidate Christina López, president of Seattle Radical Women, stand for universal employment. Both Durham and López are experienced fighters for workers’ rights – Durham as a restaurant industry unionist for several decades, during which he was a shop steward and rank-and-file strike leader, and López as an immigrant rights champion with a union background in both the private and public sectors.
Durham and López advocate a massive, federally funded program of training and public jobs at union-scale wages, with childcare available. The program should be used to repair and rebuild vital infrastructure; to protect green spaces and the environment; and to train and employ more teachers, health workers, and social service providers. To create even more jobs, the standard workweek should be shortened to 30 hours, with no reduction in pay, and the retirement eligibility age should be lowered to age 55.
To fund the ambitious jobs and training program, Durham and López propose to disarm the U.S. war machine, which sucks up 55 percent of the federal budget; nationalize banks and key industries under the management of workers’ committees; and steeply increase taxes on mega-corporations and the very wealthy. To businesses that claim poverty, the FSP campaign says, “Open the books!” Corporate finances should be open to public scrutiny. No more hundred-million-dollar bonuses to CEOs who lay off thousands of workers!
A real jobs program would provide opportunities for all workers to reach their full potential. It would offer training and apprenticeship programs for young people entering the workforce and for anyone who hasn’t had the chance to develop the skills needed for decent employment. It would embrace affirmative action, with quotas to make it real. It would have a strict policy of no discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or immigration status.
Strong unions and workers’ rights must also be part of a new employment picture. Organization is vital to protecting safe working conditions, fair wages, and job security. Working people must have full rights to organize collectively, strike, and boycott. Durham and López stand for abolishing so-called “right to work” laws, which drastically weaken unions by barring them from requiring all workers at a workplace they represent to join, along with the Taft-Hartley Act and all other anti-labor laws and regulations. The ability to withhold our labor is the ultimate power that workers have to defend ourselves and our jobs.
Durham and López are working for a true recovery, one that provides the employment to create a well-maintained infrastructure, excellent schools, affordable homes, vital social services, universal healthcare, a strengthened environment, and thriving arts, culture, and scientific research. A sweeping program of public jobs would mean that instead of laboring to produce profits for a few, workers would produce for the common good and create a better quality of life for all.