This article is from the March/April 2010 issue of Dollars & Sense: Real World Economics, available at http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0310clarkmazzetta.html


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This article is from the March/April 2010 issue of Dollars & Sense magazine.

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Fewer Guns! More Butter!

Left Alternatives to Tea Partying

By Jill Mazzetta and Tillman Clark

Mainstream media outlets, from Fox News to NPR, have amplified the right-wing-populism du jour to the point where if the Tea Party phenomenon wasn’t a mass movement to begin with, it stands a chance of becoming one. Too bad the Tea Partiers’ solutions to the economic crisis—less government, “freer” markets—are what caused it in the first place. Now the Washington Post and other outlets are reporting that an opposing “Coffee Party” movement has recently formed through Facebook, with chapters starting up across the country.

But what about good old-fashioned, face-to-face, left organizing? You might not hear about it on cable news, but there is plenty going on. Here are three nationwide campaigns fighting for federal action on unemployment and cuts in military spending.

The 25% Solution

This new initiative, organized in part by the Boston-based Community Labor United (massclu.org), is grounded in the notion that true national security comes not from our whopping $700 billion yearly defense budget but from strong communities with adequate resources for health, education, and environmental protection. The campaign calls for an immediate 25% reduction in military spending—which could be easily achieved by withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, cutting weapons systems the Pentagon itself deems unnecessary, and closing half of the 800 U.S. military bases abroad—and directing the resulting savings toward job creation.

“We want to go beyond the slogans and actually create jobs,” says Mike Prokosch, a veteran popular economics educator and one of the main organizers of the initiative. A 25% cut in defense spending would yield about $175 billion a year, enough to build or renovate over 20,000 schools, provide health coverage for 40 million people, or create 5 million green jobs. For more information, visit www.25percentsolution.org.

The National Jobs for All Coalition

On the first Friday of every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes the previous month’s unemployment data. The National Jobs for All Coalition (NJFAC) is turning these “First Fridays” into an opportunity to press for federal action on unemployment, with vigils and pickets at unemployment offices.

The NJFAC has launched a national campaign to push for full employment at decent wages. Based partly on a New Deal-style program of direct government job creation, the campaign’s vision also includes democratic workplaces with family-friendly policies, environmentally sound job opportunities, and safe, prosperous communities.

In November, the NJFAC co-sponsored a conference that brought together over 125 people from 50 like-minded organizations, including labor, religious, and poor people’s organizations, along with the Chicago Political Economy Group. There was “a strong feeling that we should aim not just to get back to the pre-recession days of chronic high unemployment, stagnant wages, and neglected physical and social infrastructures,” says coalition chair Trudy Goldberg. Participants agreed on several ways to generate revenue for living-wage jobs, such as cuts in military spending, more progressive taxes, and a “transaction tax” on stock transfers. For more information, visit www.jobsconference.org and www.njfac.org.

Jobs with Justice

“We are building a grassroots movement to transform our economy,” says Ricardo Valadez, program and communications director for Jobs with Justice (JwJ). That’s a tall order, but with more than 20 years of organizing experience, it’s one that JwJ is confident it can fill. The group sees the current economic crisis as an opportunity to organize workers and promote labor rights. It also collaborates with already-unionized workplaces to mobilize against threats caused by the current economic crisis, such as layoffs and wage cuts.

Recently, JwJ launched a comprehensive social action campaign focused on unemployment. It features a “series of escalating mobilizations” throughout the spring, progressing from rallies and student walkouts, to a March for Jobs at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit in June, to a march on Washington this summer. For more information, visit www.jwj.org.

Jill Mazzetta is a student at Emerson College and a Dollars & Sense intern; Tillman Clark is a recent graduate of Evergreen College and was a D&S intern in the summer of 2008.


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