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Iowans advocate for ‘jobs, not cuts’
Iowa’s congressional delegation received a strong reminder Friday that state residents and workers are still concerned about unemployment and the impact it is having on middle-class families.
The group, which was formed in part by a coalition of progressive organizations, had many serious things to discuss, but also made the demonstration fun for young people in attendance by performing a spoof of the Village People’s “YMCA” song, replacing the chorus with “J-O-B-S.”
“Sure we had a lot of fun today,” said Sarah Collman, a Head Start teacher from Cedar Rapids, who described for those gathered how layoffs have affected families and children at her agency. “But we are totally serious that Washington’s focus has to be jobs first and foremost. Everything else, especially all the ideological stuff that nearly drove our economy off a cliff, has to take a back seat to that.”
The demonstration, which is one of many taking place across the U.S. this month, is intended to bring added awareness to ongoing economic inequality — an issue similar to that held by the “occupy” protestors. The marchers are concerned about politicians who appear to be siding with corporate and Wall Street executives while failing to move on job creation legislation.
“This issue is personal to me,” said Alanic Poseley-Hatton, who was visiting Iowa City to attend training at the University of Iowa Labor Center. “In 2008, my company was bought out and we had more than 50 percent layoffs. While I was laid off, I worked more than 40 hours a week just looking for work for six full months. Fortunately, I found work, although I had to make sacrifices to survive at a lower wage. In today’s market things are even worse and we — the workers — are being blamed for a mess we didn’t create.”
A key point made by speakers was that while 30 million Americans are out of work — roughly 100,000 Iowans being unemployed — corporate profits are at a record high and Wall Street banks have made more than $100 billion in profits since taxpayers bailed them out.
Participants signed a petition that will go to members of Iowa’s congressional delegation, demanding that job creation be placed at the top of their agenda in Washington. The petition also urges Congress to stop giving tax breaks and allowing loopholes for corporate executives, hedge fund managers and others.
After the rally, many participants marked to the Iowa Avenue Railroad Bridge, a local site where attendees said infrastructure improvements could lead to job creation. The bridge needs work because its low height does not allow truck traffic on this route. This creates an obstacle to Iowa City’s public transportation switching to hybrid buses because the bridge height cannot accommodate the hybrid buses’ tall profile. The project is currently unfunded and participants called for federal investment in this work that needs doing.
Speakers told the crowd that Congress needs to pass the Fair Opportunity Employment Act, which would prohibit employers from discriminating based on someone’s history of unemployment. Ending this kind of unfair treatment is especially important to long-term unemployed folks. They were also encouraged to urge their representatives to pass the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act, which act would create 2 million jobs (replacing the 1.8 million lost as a result of the recent debt ceiling deal). The money is for additional teachers, cops, firefighters and health care providers; and infrastructure work in our communities. The act’s cost can be covered simply by closing loopholes in the tax code that allow corporations to hide money in offshore tax havens. Just doing that would generate $210 billion in revenue.