‘What Path Forward?’ - A Labor Perspective From Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President Richard Lipsitz
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: Richard Lipsitz is President of the Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation (WNYALF), whose Regional Labor Federation’s 140 affiliated Local Unions combine to represent 145,000 Union Workers in the Public and Private Sectors and the Building Trades.
We are now approaching seven weeks of the shutdown of large sections of our local and New York State economies.
The WNYALF office closed on March 13th, and since that day, the Staff and Officers are operating in a new manner.
Much of our work is centered on information sharing, calls for assistance to the Front Line Workers and organizing programs via the Internet.
We are proud of this work, but, we also fervently hope that we can once again work in a more social and public fashion.
However, we are ready to continue to put the health and safety of Working People in first place, and will abide by the wise leadership being exhibited by our state and local public officials.
It is indeed a great tragedy that the same cannot be said for the broken direction being taken by the Trump Administration.
An early shut down of the economy, with emphasis put on testing and the procurement of needed safety equipment for Front Line Workers would have left our country in a much better position to minimize the virus.
However, no such leadership was provided.
Instead, we are on the receiving end of policies that are not working well enough to give anyone confidence.
It is a very difficult place for any society, let alone the country with the largest economy in the world.
Nonetheless, from this crisis, a re-set can be developed.
The economy will be reopened at some level in the near future.
The masses of people have become more educated in the need to continue social distancing and personal hygiene.
Treatment for COVID-19 and a possible vaccine are completely within the realm of possibility.
Science and the scientific method have never been more important.
International cooperation is key to solving this vexing problem.
The real need is for a clear, thoughtful program that attacks both the health and economic issues brought forth by this crisis.
We believe such a program can and must be developed.
A re-set of the priorities of our society can be in the offing.
A health care system that is not based on the maximizing of profit and the exorbitant compensation of privately owned companies must be a priority.
The infrastructure of the economy must become a project that can restore good jobs doing much needed work.
We need new methods of transportation that do not sit people in rows like sardines in a can.
We need rebuild bridges and dams.
We need the finest forms of communication that is made easily available to the entire population.
We need a resurgent Labor Movement that organizes ordinary Workers wherever they exist.
We need all of this - and more.
In order to achieve any of this re-set, society must bear the costs.
This means government spending and it also means new tax legislation that puts the burden on the 1% who make millions, even billions of dollars a year.
No such legislation will be remotely possible without a new President and a new Senate.
Working People must take up this class-based program and be prepared to work decisively in the next five months to win on November 3rd.
To do any less, invites a crisis that will make this one seem mild.