WISCONSINREPORT.COM (10/10/08) - Change To Win, a nationwide worker organization of over 6 million members, has outlined a comprehensive economic recovery program for Main Street America that would generate broad-based prosperity, restore faith and fairness in the market system, and renew the American Dream for working and middle class families. The worker organization called on Congress to reject the Wall Street bailout based on the flawed economic policies of the past. A spokesperson says the United States needs a new economic model that rewards worker productivity and innovation, and, sets new rules for the marketplace and the workplace.
"A bailout for Wall Street that ignores Main Street is part of the problem, not the solution," Change to Win chair Anna Burger said.
"Wall Street has been allowed to run wild for eight years and they've acted like pigs at a trough," LIUNA General President Terence M. O'Sullivan said. "They should be thinking about bail, not a bailout.
"The most important asset in America is not Wall Street - it is Main Street and working people. This is a crisis, but it is also an opportunity for our nation to resolve to build America, so America works again. A bail-out must not become another no-strings raid on the taxpayers by the Bush Administration," O'Sullivan said.
The organization of some of the nation's largest and most politically potent unions proposed an eight point plan to address the underlying economic problems that have brought the nation to the brink of the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression almost eighty years ago.
The plan focuses on Main Street concerns from energy costs to health care costs, and addresses long term economic problems that have left working and middle class families struggling just to make ends meet.
"Under the economic policies of the past forty years, American families have suffered from shrinking paychecks and rising living costs while CEOs salaries and profits soared on the backs of increased worker productivity," Aanna Burger said.
"Workers got cancelled pensions and health care cuts while corporate executives got bonuses and golden parachutes. Now, they want to foreclose on our homes and take our taxes to bail out their banks and brokerage firms," continued Burger.
As an immediate down payment for Main Street economic recovery, Change To Win called for passage of a stimulus package that includes extended unemployment benefits, funding for food stamps, aid to states and localities to prevent cuts in essential services, and investment in infrastructure projects that are only awaiting funding.
"Aid should go to the victims and not just the predators," according to Burger. "We need legal changes that allow bankruptcy courts to require re-negotiation of loan terms," Burger added.
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa emphasized the potential consequences on worker pension funds.
"Focusing on bailing out Wall Street is planting the seeds of a future pension crisis that will not harm the Wall Street moguls, but average working families," stated Hoffa.
Key economic indicators reveal a deepening economic recession for America's working families that has not been addressed or even recognized in the current economic debate.
Declining worker purchasing power is part of what is threatening the economy. Over the last year, real wages actually declined as living costs surged 5.5%.
Unemployment has risen by more than 2.6 million workers, and more than 5.7 million seeking full-time work can only find part- time employment. Millions of families have reportedly lost homes, savings and 401k retirement plans as well as jobs and incomes.
The current recession only compounds the impact of the previous recession. Many workers are still waiting to recover from the last downturn.
Since 2000, median family income has fallen almost 2 percent during the so-called recovery. At the same time, health insurance premiums have risen 115 percent
The Change to Win recovery program would provide:
- Homeowner relief that would allow families to stay in their homes through renegotiated mortgage terms.
- Comprehensive health care that would reduce overall cost while promoting healthier lives.
- Pension fund protection that will extend the amortization periods for multi-employer pensions, establish an oversight board, and provide opportunities for retirees whose employers were driven out of business.
- Energy independence and the greening of the American Dream through public and private investment in new technologies to provide low cost energy and a clean environment.
- Physical infrastructure designed and built for the 21st century to restore and replace the roads, bridges, mass transit systems, airports, and parks.
- Tax equity for working and middle class families who pay a larger percentage of their incomes than those taking a larger and larger share of the income and wealth of the country.
- Workplace fairness that respects and rewards work, protects worker rights and equal opportunity, and provides for workers organization and collective bargaining without employer intimidation or interference.
- Educational opportunity through a trust fund to expand education from early childhood programs to grants for college tuition.
The total cost of the Main Street recovery program is estimated at less than half of the estimated cost of the Wall Street bail out.
Change to Win sent a statement of principles to Congress on September 23, 2008 to set basic criteria for a bailout package that included protections for workers and pension beneficiaries. Some of the things Change to Win advocated were included, in various forms, in the final "Rescue" bill that Congress came up with, while others were not.