"This is Unacceptable!"
By Bill Hohlfeld
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Yesterday, at the now infamous intersection of Wall St. and Exchange Place, a broad based coalition of labor unions, community activists, and local elected officials came together to express their collective outrage on investment banking’s most recent assault on the poor, the working class and middle class of the United States.
With the Reverend Jesse Jackson anchoring the public speaking, the participants taking stage were representatives of the NYC Transit Workers Union, the Communication Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Association of Machinists, Local 1199 of the Hospital Workers’ Union and the NYC Central Labor Council, as well as the politicos who represent solid working class communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
More than mere rhetoric, speaker after speaker, portrayed the proposed $700 billion bailout as what it is -- all part of a “white collar crime wave” committed by America’s “banksters.” The point was well taken when the speaker representing the machinists told of his personal experience of making concession after concession to the airline industry, and being told not to worry because “he would be taken care of later.” And indeed he was. He was rewarded with a lay-off check. It was an eloquent, if brutal end to the story.
No less eloquent was Executive Director of the Central Labor Council, Ed Ott, whose remarks were not only impassioned, but neatly placed in historical context. Reminding us that our own grandfathers were the working class Americans who were victimized in much the same way by the shoddy, unscrupulous and unregulated banking practices of their day, they were left to contend with the effects of the Great Depression. He reminded us too that all too often, it is the working class who are first to man the front lines to fight for the lofty principles for which our nation stands, only to be denied the benefits off the system for which they have sacrificed.
When looking at a $700 billion expenditure, it is not selfish, but reasonable to ask the question Mr. Ott asked at the beginning of his address: “What’s in it for us?” Will there be jobs, or improved infrastructure, or health care or education for our children? Or will there be only golden parachutes and a free pass for those who drove the American economy into the ground? If the answer to that question is the one so many of us fear it is, than Mr. Ott’s succinct appraisal of the situation is both accurate and chillingly complete in its brevity. “This is unacceptable!”