Jobs bill now has 50 co-sponsors in Congress

By Evelina Alarcon, in People's Weekly World,
7 June, 1997

LOS ANGELES - "We reached the big five-oh!" exclaimed Art Rodriguez, national coordinator of the National Labor Community Coalition For Public Works Jobs. He was referring to the fact that the 50th Congressional representative signed on as a co-sponsor of the Martinez Public Works Jobs Bill (HR-950) this week.

Rodriguez told the World Rep. Joseph Moakley (D) of Boston, Mass. became number 50 as the campaign to pass this life-and-death legislation heats up all over the country. Moakley joined representatives Jesse Jackson Jr. and Sidney Yates, both Illinois Democrats, William Clay (D-Mo.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Delegate Donna Christian-Green (D- Virgin Islands) as co-sponsors of the legislation in the recent weeks. Rep. Martinez's office has received a flood of inquiries about the bill from other representatives who are getting phone calls from their constituents asking them to sign on to HR-950.

"The fact that the grassroots have pressured 50 Members of Congress to sign onto a $250 billion public works jobs bill shows that the people of our country don't accept the so- called economic boom picture that is being portrayed in the press," Rodriguez said. "Workers are not feeling secure in their jobs."

Rodriguez pointed to the fact that millions of the new jobs created are part-time and temporary and do not provide the wages needed for families to survive. The reality of the unstable economy is spurring greater and greater support for HR-950 all over the country, Rodriguez said.

Citywide coalitions and grassroots committees working for the bill are sprouting up nationwide, from San Diego and Sacramento, Calif. to Providence, R.I., Detroit, Mich. and New Haven, Conn. Within the last few weeks four central labor councils endorsed the bill. The Chicago Federation of Labor, the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO, Philadelphia Central Labor Council and the Orange County (Calif.) Central Labor Council joined the over 130 labor bodies already on board.

Jim Hightower, former Agricultural Secretary of Texas, trumpeted the bill at the recent UAW Community Action Program conference in Washington D.C. Rodriguez reported that Hightower rocked the meeting of over 1,600 delegates with his call for passage of the bill and his praise of Martinez and the cosponsors who he said are not afraid to take the offensive against the Republican agenda. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, also spoke strongly for passage of the legislation in her remarks to the conference.

On the other end of the country, in Anaheim, Calif., the statewide meeting of the California Democratic Council also endorsed the bill last week. Rodriguez addressed the conference's labor workshop, updating participants on the current status of the national movement for the bill.

Within the last two weeks, more than 20 organizations have endorsed HR-950, including the national Gray Panthers, the Detroit Labor-Community Coalition for Jobs, AFSCME Local 3306 in Chicago, the UAW Community Action Program in Saginaw, Mich. and many UAW locals throughout the country.

The national public works jobs coalition, until recently made up of labor organizations alone, is now inviting all organizations, churches and elected government bodies to join the coalition as affiliates to fight for the bill's passage. The NAACP branches of Los Angeles and Philadelphia have accepted the invitation and are now official members of the coalition along with five central labor councils, many local public works jobs coalitions around the country and organizations, including the San Diego chapter of the Federation of Retired Union Members and the Southern Nevada Council of UAW Retirees.

Rodriguez will be campaigning for HR-950 in northern California next week at the invitation of local community- labor coalitions in San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento and the local chapter of Labor Council For Latin American Advancement in San Jose.

For more information about the coalition or the bill, contact the National Labor Community Coalition For Public Works Jobs at (310) 806-9928.

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