April 13th, 2011 9:50 am | by NATHAN GILLES News | Posted In: Activism, Politics

Unions Protest the Economy and Budget Cuts

Dollar Bills
Ticked off about the economy and budget cuts? Join the crowd.

At noon this Saturday, April 16, private and public sector unions angry with high unemployment and government budget cuts will meet in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square for a “Jobs, Not Cuts” rally.

Organized by Portland Jobs with Justice, the rally has more than 60 cosponsors from unions to community and environmental groups. With Oregon unemployment still at 10 percent and a state budget deficit of $3.5 billion, organizers want to see Oregon’s economy grow while also making sure social safety net programs won’t get slashed in the expected wave of budget cuts.

“There is a deficit and we need to be frugal,” says Jobs with Justice organizer Chris Ferlazzo, “But making cuts on working people and the poor is not the way.”

Along with preserving social programs, Jobs with Justice is also calling for a national program, similar to FDR’s Works Progress Administration—a call that is being echoed by environmental groups expected to attend the Saturday rally.

“We need a massive public works program to create millions of new jobs repairing the infrastructure and creating a 21st century economy focused on reducing our reliance on fossil fuels," Dave King of the Climate Justice Coalition said in a news release.

According to Ferlazzo, 11 Portland private and public sector unions totaling 15,000 union members, will be negotiating contracts this June. And Ferlazzo says he hopes to raise awareness about those negotiations at Saturday’s rally.  

The Jobs, Not Cuts rally will also include a talk by Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin president Mahlon Mitchell. He came to national attention after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker clashed with public sector unions  over Walker’s bill stripping most Wisconsin public sector workers of the right to collectively bargain.

Exempt from Walker’s bill were Wisconsin police and fire fighters unions, including Mitchell’s own union. Mitchell, whose union joined those protesting Walker, has been a key figure in the Wisconsin protests.

The Saturday rally beginning at noon comes less than 24 hours after this very different demonstration on Friday, April 15, also in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

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