The Real Economic Stimulus

01/31/2009 07:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Our government is in the process of releasing the 2nd $350 billion of the $700 billion the Congress approved a couple of months ago to bail out the banks and financial industry.

They have asked for this money as they prepare an economic stimulus package of another $850 billion to $1 trillion.

Now we know the economic stimulus is critical and necessary. We have to help get it passed. I would not argue against it, but allow me to make a couple of observations about the banks financial bailout.

1) De-regulation costs all of us a ton of money when it doesn't work.
2) If it's costing us about a trillion dollars to bail out the free market system, then the free market system is hardly free.
3) Unrelated or unfettered capitalism is always ultimately disastrous.
4) Unmitigated greed destroys.
5) The ideas Newt Gingrich used to brag about and blather about that came out of the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute are costing the rest of us and our kids and grandkids a whole lot of money.
6) Ayn Rand wrote fiction -- not policy.

Much of this -- certainly this economic stimulus and the economic stimulus we all got last spring -- is based on the universal acknowledgment that there just isn't enough spending power or buying power throughout our economy to power our economic engine.

You see, while our productivity has gone up by 75% in the last 30 years our wages have stagnated, flat lined. And so working families have borrowed to keep up -- incurring mortgage debt as we took out second mortgages or lines of credit on our homes, insidious credit card debt, medical debt as more and more of us lost our healthcare and healthy insurance, education debt as higher education became more and more expensive for the kids of working families.

We felt their recession and threatened depression long before they did. We felt it in closed factories and the disappearance of 3 million plus middle class, unions manufacturing jobs. We felt it as communities collapsed around those closed plants. Delphi, Paper Mills, auto plants, south Chicago, Gary, Toledo, Buffalo, South Georgia, and Birmingham.

We felt their recession as the number of our fellow Americans without healthcare rose to 47 million and the number of us with inadequate or unreliable healthcare rose to another 40 million.

We felt their recession as the number of Americans living in poverty increased 20% while George Bush was president.

We know something was desperately wrong with free market economics as we produced more and more wealth with every day of our work while our wages flat lined and CEO pay went from 40 times as much as the average worker in 1980 to 400 times as much as the average worker today.

How did all this happen?

What happened in these last 30 years?

Over the last 30 years workers in America have lost the freedom to bargain collectively with the corporations that ran this economy and our jobs. So while CEO's negotiated contracts that paid them $10 million to $400 million a year with $200 million severance packages when they drove a company into the ditch, we lost our freedom to bargain our way into the middle class, to bargain from a decent standards of living, to bargain for our kids and grandkids to have the same kind of opportunity we had.

A corrupt corporate culture has done all it could to deny workers the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively.

- 30,000 workers a year are retaliated against for exercising supposedly protected workers rights.

- 1 in 5 union activists in organizing campaigns will be fired.

- Almost all employers in the private sector will do anything to stop workers from forming a union. Even when workers do form a union, employers refuse to bargain in good faith.

The real, effective, and best economic stimulus is to restore to workers in America the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively. That is the most common sensical and cost effective way to restore balance in our economy. Allow us to bargain collectively and we will bargain for a greater share of the wealth we create. Just as we did between 1935 and 1955 when our great middle class was created by workers bargaining for dignity and fairness.

All this is why we have must pass and enact the Employee Free Choice Act.

The Employee Free Choice Act will do three things to restore the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively to America's workers.

- Impose real penalties on employers who violate the law

- Force corporations to negotiate in good faith by allowing workers to seek arbitration

- Allow workers to avoid the corporate attack campaigns by forming their union through majority sign up.

In the five years since we introduced this legislation we have made incredible progress. In 2007 it passes the House overwhelmingly 241-185. We got a majority vote in the Senate but could not overcome a Republican filibuster and the promise of George Bush veto.

But now things are different.

Our new President supports the Employee Free Choice Act as does a strong majority in the House and a majority in the Senate and 73% of the American public.

Our job is to create a filibuster - proof majority of support in the Senate and a national groundswell demand for an economy that works for all.

The stakes could not be higher:

- The economic health of our nation

- The future of our country as a nation of opportunity

- The provision of a future full of hope and opportunity for our kids and grandkids

To win right now, we must do two things:

1) Run the best and biggest possible ground campaign, mobilizing 100's of 1000's of workers to contact their Members of Congress about the immediate urgency of this legislation

2) Make sure everyone understands the Employee Free Choice Act is about the economic health of America - not a narrow, institutional issue for our labor movement. We must demonstrate that the Employee Free Choice Act enjoys broad public support.

Change must mean real change in people's lives -- healthcare, good jobs, fair trade, workers rights

Victory is in our reach. Turning around America is up to us. Winning healthcare for all, creating good jobs and fair trade, and restoring the freedom to organize and bargain is just a matter of mobilizing the most effective ground campaign in our history.

One and a half million workers have signed the Millions Workers Demand. 10's of 1000's have taken action in the last five years.

It is up to us to move 100's of 1000's to turn Around America and restore economic health and balance to middle class America.