Monday, June 1, 2009

Expanding the Boundaries of Public Debate

Last week, the National Jobs for All Coalition, the National Council of Churches and other groups held an organizing meeting to plan to a national conference on job creation and full employment in the fall. We expect the conference will take place in New York on Nov. 19 and 20, and we hope it can become a model for meetings in other parts of the U.S.

Here's the call we sent out for the meeting. We'd welcome your thoughts, ideas, sponsorship and financial support!

Creating Decent Jobs, Meeting Human Needs & Sustaining the Environment

The Problem and the Goals: Temporary and Permanent

Even before the onset of our current, deep recession, we faced chronic unemployment, low and stagnant wages, myriad unmet needs and unprecedented environmental degradation.

Today’s rapidly escalating unemployment has put job creation back on the public agenda for the first time in recent history. Over 13 million people were officially unemployed in March 2009, and hidden unemployment brings total joblessness up to an appalling 28 million with 9 seekers for every available job. If it is possible to ignore the chronic unemployment that besets millions of people in normal times, it is much harder to ignore this current, mass unemployment and its staggering social and economic costs.

What should Progressives do about mass unemployment? What long-term goals should we have for the economy? A strong economic stimulus is imperative to meet the current emergency. Yet, a stimulus that achieves its promise-- to create 4 million jobs--would only reduce official unemployment by a third! Nor is it good enough to return to official unemployment of 5 million women and men and millions more working poor even in the “best” of recent times or to be satisfied with the host of unmet needs with which this recession began. In the words of FDR, “We cannot be content, no matter how high the general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people … is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.”

Crises present opportunities for progressive change. This is the time for Progressives to mobilize and to develop goals for an economy that provides living wage jobs for all, sustains the environment and repairs our social and physical infrastructure. This is the time for Progressives to devise economic and political strategies for achieving these short- and long-term goals.

The Proposal: A National Conference to Create Living-Wage Jobs, Meet Human Needs and Sustain the Environment, New York City, November 19-20, 2009.

Participation and sponsorship for this National Conference would be broad--including not only institutions with a primary focus on the quality and quantity of jobs, economic justice, social security, the safety net and poverty. Other critical participants are organizations not primarily concerned with employment whose goals for health care, education, child care, elder care, disability rights, housing, eco-restructuring, public transportation and the arts would be furthered by job creation in their areas of interest. The hope is to gain their ongoing commitment to conquering unemployment and low wages-- even after the crisis subsides. This would build on a plan of the National Jobs for All Coalition to simultaneously create living wage jobs for all and, through a renewed public sector, to repair our deeply deficient social and physical infrastructure.

We propose establishing a Steering Committee consisting of representatives of the New York City Central Labor Council, National Jobs for All Coalition, National Council of Churches and other potential leaders. The tasks of the Steering Committee are to: secure a paid, conference coordinator; choose and acquire a conference site; recruit other potential sponsors, both grassroots and mainstream; select outstanding speakers to present solutions and strategies for progressive change; develop a plan for gaining the widest possible participation and the widest possible publicity for the conference and its outcome; and initiate plans for ongoing action such as follow-up conferences in cities throughout the nation and a mass Mobilization for Living Wage Jobs and Public Investment in Washington DC.

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