In what Orange County Labor Federation Executive Director Tefere Gebre says is the first ever vist by a sitting AFL-CIO President, Richard L. Trumka paid a visit to Orange County on Wednesday. He was here following through on his promise, made in September 2009, that following his election he would go out an visit labor councils across the nation and listen to union members personally to build a better understanding of the needs of working men and women in these tough economic times.
Trumka talked about the need for short- and long-term solutions focusing on his immediate short-term five step plan for economic recovery and job creation.
1. Extend the lifeline for jobless workers.
2. Rebuild America’s schools, roads, and energy systems.
3. Increase aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services.
4. Put people to work doing work that needs to be done.
5. Put TARP funds to work on Main Street.
Trumka met with about 70 workers from Orange County unions to hear what they had to say. Rose Nguyen, a member of the United Domestic Workers of America who provide in home health services in Orange County said;
“The state budget and priorities are making it impossible for me and my co-workers to provide needed services to the aged, blind, or disabled Californians who depend on our services to survive day to day. We need an economy that works for all of us not only Wall Street.”
The Orange County Labor Federation represents more than 250,000 workers through their affiliate unions. The meeting on Wednesday was held at the headquarters of the Orange County Employees Association which is both the newest and largest affiliated union in the AFL-CIO.
Trumka doesn’t buy into the frame promoted by anti-labor folks in Orange County that unions are the root of all our economic problems. “When people say that, I don’t buy it and point to the facts. Our workers are better trained and more productive. While they may make higher wages and have better benefits, that enables them to spend more money and stimulate the economy.”
He pointed out that since the mid ’70’s the relative rate of pay for workers in this country has remained stagnant while productivity has increased. The increased productivity of American workers has financially enriched most dramatically those whose earnings fall in the top 1%. Trumka said; “It wasn’t unions that caused the financial crisis, it was Wall Street. It wasn’t unions that caused jobs to be shipped out of the country, it was greed.”
“Currently our laws favor our trading partner, not the American workers,” Trumka explained. “They reward companies that send jobs over seas. Unions help American workers bargain their way into the middle class as opposed to borrowing their way into the middle class. That is why it is so important to the stimulation of our economy that we pass the Employee Free Choice Act this year.”
Trumka’s point is a simple one, union jobs create a better trained and more productive workforce. Union pay and benefits make it possible for workers to spend money on things they need. That stimulates the economy and is the key to economic recovery.
Martin Wisckol from the OC Register has posted this story on Trumka’s visit.