Huge March on Wall Street: “Good Jobs Now!”

Chanting “Good Jobs Now! Make Wall Street Pay!” and “They Got Bailed Out! We Got Left Out!” more than 15,000 union members, unemployed workers, community activists and progressive citizens jammed the streets of Lower Manhattan yesterday to march for good jobs and Wall Street reform.

april29_1Before leading the huge crowd in a March on Wall Street AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the rally that the big banks had crashed the economy, put us 11 million jobs in the hole, and that it’s time they paid to restore American jobs.
(photo at right by Will Fischer)

0429001717 Working America members, supporters and organizers were on hand. And everywhere you looked there were signs telling Wall Street “I Am Not Your ATM“.

The event marked the single largest jobs rally since the onset of the Great Recession, and capped a week of actions nationwide.

The huge rally heard from speakers including New York unionists, teachers, students and progressive religious leaders — each expressing their outrage that while 15 million Americans are unemployed, and millions more have lost their homes, it’s back to business as usual for the big banks.

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous told the rally:

this is the time to take back America from the Big Banks. He said while money can buy votes, money can’t vote and all the newly registered voters in the 2008 election will make a difference in 2010.

Kim and Jamison were part of a Working America contingent on hand from Philadelphia.

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More photos from the Wall Street Showdown:

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Budget Cuts Mean Long Lines at the DMV

In San Francisco it can take weeks to get an appointment at the DMV:

Because of the state’s budget deficit, the number of personnel hours to manage California’s car culture has been reduced, while the workload has remained steady or increased. This has led to a shortage of resources at popular and convenient D.M.V. branches like San Francisco’s.

The D.M.V. processed 29.7 million licenses and identification cards statewide in 2009, up nearly 400,000 from 2008. But during the same period, to save money, the state has furloughed D.M.V. employees and closed offices the first three Fridays of each month, said George Valverde, director of the state D.M.V. “We’re losing about 15 percent of our available hours.”

The new reality of fewer open hours and a greater workload means that some problems that were once resolved quickly can now languish.

and

Technology has brought some needed relief: most D.M.V. business can now be done online — 9.4 million transactions were done online last year, a record, with a 20 percent increase in the first quarter of 2010, according to D.M.V. records.

But Armando Botello, a D.M.V. spokesman, said there remained a “digital divide” affecting poorer Californians who lack Internet access. In addition, Mr. Botello said, “a lot of people wait until the last minute” to pay D.M.V. fees — a situation perhaps exacerbated by the recession — and do not leave enough time to receive a license or vehicle registration renewal by mail.

Those who show up without an appointment can expect to stand in line for hours.

In North Carolina:

You don’t just “drop by” the Division of Motor Vehicles in New Hanover County anymore. A visit could take you anywhere from three hours to most of your day.

It’s 6:30 a.m., and people are lining up outside the DMV, hours before it even opens.

Many states have implemented furlough days for state offices. In Wisconsin a creative measure has been added in to the mix:

Titling and registration services are offered by many third-party partners such as some police stations, grocery stores and financial institutions around the state and can be found at the WisDOT web site.

Long lines and delays are happening all over the country. In Nevada:

Malone says a DMV visit that used to take an hour could now take more than three. He says the best way to do business with the DMV is to visit its web site first.

One reason service is even slower in Nevada is implementation of the Real ID Act:

Faced with stiff public opposition, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has withdrawn a proposal to immediately require motorists to get a new type of driver’s license. Instead, the DMV will give motorists the option of either continuing with their current licenses or obtaining a license that complies with the federal “Real ID” act.

The Real ID Act was passed in 2005, but proved to be so cumbersome and expensive to adopt, that an extension was granted. The extension expired on Dec. 31, 2009. Now some of the states that did not opt out (at least 15 states have refused to implement REAL ID) are attempting to implement this costly and time consuming new license, at a time when they can ill afford to do so.

While DHS estimated that the implementation of REAL ID will cost states $3.9 billion, Congress has appropriated only $200 million for state implementation.

It seems that attending to DMV business online is the best way to go, if that’s an option. (some states are lagging behind in technology) If you do have to go to the DMV, be sure to call ahead, especially if you live in a state that didn’t opt out of REAL ID, to try to schedule an appointment and make sure you bring everything you need.

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Marching on Wall Street

Working America’s Kim marches on Wall Street and Mitchell gets the picture:

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Live from Wall Street

The march on Wall Street is beginning, and Mitchell Hirsch is there, taking pictures:

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Short Takes

The number of unemployment claims has fallen slightly.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 448,000 in the week ended April 24, the Labor Department said.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 445,000 from the previously reported 456,000, which was modestly revised up to 459,000 in Thursday’s report.

but

Though initial claims have resumed their downward trend interrupted by the Easter holiday, analysts worry the pace is too slow and underscores the fragility of private hiring.

Despite all of the manufactured controversy over the census, the Census Bureau reports the rate of returned forms is the same as in 2000, about 72%.

Beginning Saturday, 600,000 enumerators will go door-to-door to find the up to 48 million households that failed to respond.

A reminder of why the census is important.

Two Miners Missing in Kentucky. There was a collapse in the Webster County Coal Dokiti Mine:

Records show inspectors from the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing have issued 31 orders to close sections of the mine or to shut down equipment because of safety violations since January 2009. Those records also show an additional 44 citations for safety violations that didn’t result in closure orders.

This is why The Protecting America’s Worker’s Act (pdf) is crucial.

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Interesting Things Around the Internet

  • Disgusting and appalling.
  • Monica Potts at The American Prospect:

    Popular narratives hold that lower-income families rushing into expanding homeownership with unusually huge mortgages helped cause the financial crisis, but the real cause was the financial products many families bought. It wasn’t just low-income families; middle- and upper-middle-class homeowners were lured into less-than-ideal mortgages as well. The problem wasn’t one of poverty, but one of financial literacy. The best homeownership programs for lower-income families tackled that problem. Those families are still in their homes, and show that the type of financial homeownership programs can still serve as a way to build assets for low-income families.

    That’s why, though many advocates for low-income families are looking for other ways to help low-income families build wealth and become more financially stable, homeownership remains an important part of the discussion. But it’s not homeownership for its own sake; risky financial products that saddled families with mortgages they neither understood nor had any hope of repaying led to the current recession in which most families are dramatically less stable. Homeownership programs coupled with financial literacy have worked, and advocates are working to make sure everyone knows that and will help them expand.

  • Saying this comes not a minute too soon is kind of an understatement:

    Federal regulators told Congress on Tuesday that they would become more aggressive in enforcing mine safety laws, vowing to close mines with repeated safety violations and shut down sections of mines when inspectors find serious violations.

  • The Skimmer Economy.

For “Uncle Bobby”

Six minutes is a little longer of a video than most of us watch all the way through. But on Workers Memorial Day, let’s take that long to hear the story of one man’s death, the unsafe workplace that led to it, and the grossly inadequate penalty the employer paid for his death.

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Workers Memorial Day


According to the AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job report,

Since 1970, when the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed, workplace safety and health conditions have improved. But too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness or death. In recent weeks and months there have been a series of workplace tragedies that have heightened concerns—the coal mine disaster at the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia that killed 29 miners, an explosion a few days earlier at the Tesoro Refinery in Washington State that killed six workers, and the explosion at the Kleen Energy Plant in Connecticut in February that also claimed the
lives of six workers.

In 2008, 5,214 workers were killed on the job—an average of 14 workers every day—and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases. More than 4.6 million work-related injuries were reported, but this number understates the problem. The true toll of job injuries is two to three times greater—about 9 to 14 million job injuries each year.

The risk of job fatalities and injuries varies widely from state to state, in part due to the mix of industries. Wyoming led the country with the highest fatality rate (11.6 per 100,000), followed by Alaska (9.9), Montana (8.3), North Dakota (7.8) and South Dakota (6.9). The lowest state fatality rate (1.0 per 100,000) was reported in New Hampshire, followed by Rhode Island (1.2), Connecticut (1.6), Massachusetts (2.1) and Maryland (2.1). This compares with a national fatality rate of 3.7 per 100,000 workers in 2008.

The report is released for Workers Memorial Day:

Decades of struggle by workers and their unions have resulted in significant improvements in working conditions. But the toll of workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths remains enormous. Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more are injured or diseased because of their jobs. The unions of the AFL-CIO remember these workers on April 28, Workers Memorial Day.

Workplace fatalities aren’t just sad accidents. They’re products of a system in which employers have little incentive to focus on safety.

When workers are killed on the job, the report notes that employers face “incredibly weak penalties.” The median penalty in 2009 was just $5,000 in fatality cases investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). In 2009, when an employer was cited for a serious safety violation, the average OSHA penalty was just $965.
In addition, the report says OSHA’s inspector workforce is “woefully inadequate,” with just 2,218 inspectors to monitor the 8 million workplaces that fall under OSHA’s jurisdictions.

This is why we need to update the Occupational Safety and Health Act with the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PDF).

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Shilling for Wall Street

Delay, obstruct, repeat.

For a second time in as many days, U.S. Senate Republicans mustered enough votes on Tuesday to block debate of a Democratic bill that would bring the biggest overhaul of financial regulation since the 1930s.

President Barack Obama and the Democrats want tighter rules on banks and capital markets to prevent a repeat of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, which tipped the economy into a deep recession and unleashed reform efforts worldwide.

Three full years after the initial bursting of Wall Street’s $8 trillion housing bubble, more than two years after the start of the Great Recession, and more than a year and half after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Republicans are blocking a Wall Street reform bill from even being brought up for debate on the Senate floor.

Senate Republicans blocked the reform bill yesterday. And Laura nailed them on their shilling for Wall Street even before yesterday’s vote. In reality, the minority Republicans are trying to dictate the terms of the bill behind closed doors. They want something that Wall Street would find acceptable. They don’t want real reform. At best they want Swiss cheese.

Without blinking an eye, Republicans voted to block Wall Street reform again today, even while four Republican Senators appeared to join Democrats in excoriating witnesses from Goldman Sachs at a day-long hearing of the Senate’s Permanent Investigations subcommittee. Oh, they’re appalled alright by the dangerous manipulations, excesses and greed on Wall Street. But do they want to do anything to stop it?

Nope. And so it’s still business as usual for the big banks.

By not allowing the reform bill to even come to the floor for debate, the Republicans have forced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to continue to file cloture motions to proceed. Another cloture vote will likely happen again tomorrow. Every time these fail, there’s more debate about why they can’t actually debate the bill. But do Republicans have anything to offer?

Nope. From David Waldman at Congress Matters:

But in the meantime, we’re stuck here in the absurd position of having Republicans demanding more debate on whether or not to begin debate, without actually showing up to debate it.

And the longer they delay, the longer they obstruct, the more they are getting hammered. CNN’s Jack Cafferty:

2/3 of Americans support financial reform, but Senate GOP blocks it

Here we go again. Yet another example of our representatives in Washington not listening to what the people want.

Despite the fact that two-thirds of Americans support tougher regulation of banks and Wall Street… Republicans have already voted unanimously to block financial reform from reaching the senate floor – and they might do it again minutes from now when another test vote happens.

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows 65 percent of those surveyed want stricter financial reform. 31 percent are opposed.

The poll also shows majorities back two key parts of the senate bill… including greater government oversight of consumer loans… and a fund – paid for by the banks – that would help dismantle failing institutions. According to this poll, the public is split on letting the government regulate complex financial instruments knows as derivatives.

Also – by a double-digit margin, Americans trust Pres. Obama more than the Republicans in Congress to handle financial reform…

Not a huge surprise when you consider how the GOP is handing this.

Keep it up. With Main Street working people and the unemployed now taking to the streets demanding good jobs and to make Wall Street pay, it’s time to tell the Senate to act on the strongest possible Wall Street reform.

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Keep Up the Pressure for Wall Street Reform

Yesterday afternoon, as expected, every Republican in the Senate (and Democrat Ben Nelson) voted against beginning public debate of financial reform. But while such votes have killed a lot of bills in recent years, this time Harry Reid is playing hardball:

Last night, after Republicans voted to sustain their filibuster of Wall Street reform legislation, Reid held an open quorum, forcing Republicans to return to the Senate floor, and then set the stage for revotes–to be held today and tomorrow–forcing the GOP to go on the record repeatedly opposing debate on financial reform.

You can help apply the pressure.

This Thursday, April 29, some 10,000 union members, community activists from National People’s Action (NPA) and other groups will march on Wall Street. Our message to the Big Bankers: Americans are angry that their reckless greed made a mess of the economy and destroyed jobs—and it’s time they pay to restore those jobs. If you can’t make it in person, join the more than 8,000 people who have signed up to be taken to the march virtually.

To join the virtual march and demand an end to Wall Street’s reckless practices and insist on real Wall Street reform, click here. We’ll print your name on a sticker that one of the marchers will carry. You can add your personal message to the sign that the marcher will carry in your name. Let the Big Bankers know you’re fed up with their shenanigans and that you want real change. The march and rally, which begin at 4 p.m. EDT, is part of the AFL-CIO’s Good Jobs Now! Make Wall Street Pay mobilization.

Or call in today, and let your senators know we’re counting on them to fight for real reform that:

• Creates an independent agency to protect consumers from predatory lenders;
• Sheds light on the shadow financial system; and
• Puts mandatory limits on bank size and risky behavior.

Many senators can be counted on to do the wrong thing and protect Wall Street, no matter what. Others are persuadable—but they won’t do the right thing and protect our economy from the greed and risky behavior of the banks if we don’t apply pressure. Call your senators today.

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