their fists and chanting, “Good jobs for all, ” about 2,500 Oregon
members and their supporters packed Portland’s
Pioneer Courthouse Square
today to protest stagnant job growth and
government budget cuts.
by Portland Jobs with Justice
, the “Jobs, Not Cuts” rally is part of
a larger campaign by local and national unions demanding wealthier Americans
start paying their fair share of taxes
, while simultaneously demanding programs
for poor people not get slashed.
Among the speakers at Saturday's rally in Portland was Mahlon Mitchell
of the Professional Fire
Fighters of Wisconsin. Mitchell rose to national attention earlier this year
when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stripped most of his state’s public
sector unions of the right to collectively bargain, which in turn touched off huge protests there.
“It’s not your teachers or firefighters that are the problem,” Mitchell said. “The root of the matter is the deregulation of banks and our
housing crisis; Wall Street is the real problem.”
The Jobs, No Cuts rally comes less than 24 hours after the tax-hating Oregon tea party also rallied in Pioneer Courthouse Square. While the tea party called
for cuts, cuts, and more cuts, the union crowd urged more spending to stimulate the economy.
Going back to organized labor’s heyday in the 1930s, Jobs with
Justice is calling for a new jobs program similar to FDR’s Works Progress
. Now in the midst of the
current Great Recession
, union members are
calling for something similar, this time with a green twist.
“What we want is an improvement and expansion of public
transportation,” said organizer Greg Margolis. “We want retrofits of office buildings, and we want development of
alternative energy sources.”
After being serenaded by a folk singer, the crowd heard a speech
from Mitchell, in which the labor leader compared the union movement to the
civil rights movement. He said both movements lost when they stopped taking their fights
to the streets. The speech, and those by local labor leaders, seemed to
energize the crowd, who marched for several blocks, eventually being
accompanied by a group of about 50 from the Climate Justice Coalition
, a group
also calling for a green jobs program.
I were to give Governor Walker any credit,” Mitchell said, “it would be for
galvanizing our base. We are ready to stand up for ourselves and stand up for
the working class people of America, where as before, I think the union
movement was a bit stagnant.”