On Reopening The Economy: ‘No To Austerity Measures’ - 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.
New York State is well on its way to reaching stage three of reopening the economy.
The worst of the Coronavirus Pandemic has been experienced in our state and in our region and it is showing significant signs of receding.
While the threat of resurgence remains real and there can be no illusions about a return to pre-COVID-19 “normalcy,” all the objective numbers point to a lessening of the virus for now - and a reopening of the economy in our state.
This is of course, a positive development, but it is also no time to lower our vigilance.
Masks, social distancing and clean hygiene must be emphasized as we go forward.
We also hope for both a vaccine and curative medicine in the future, but until one is developed we must continue the measures that are working.
Unfortunately, the public health emergency that was caused by the pandemic has other dire consequences for our region, country and the world.
The world economy has been thrown into a severe recession and the American economy has been hurt badly because of the shutdown necessitated by the pandemic.
Unemployment is over 14%, state and municipal budgets are in the red, and the social safety net is fraying.
Further, there is no question that this scourge has hit Communities of Color particularly hard.
Unfortunately, in those parts of the country that reopened their economies too early the virus is actually surging.
While COVID-19 will only be completely resolved through public health measures, the economic disaster must be addressed through political and legislative means.
The real question posed by this situation is “who will pay?”
For the Labor Movement the answer should simply be, “not us!”
We must fight for a program that does not shift the burden of the crisis onto the backs of Working People.
The object in any recovery of the economy should be to shift wealth to those who actually produce it.
The only way to revive the economy that will improve the living standards of Working People is to put money in their pocket.
The theory of “trickle down” favored by the Right Wing Politicians and their media mouthpieces only leads to increasing the disparity between the 1% and the overwhelming majority of the American People.
Any proposal to make Working People pay for the weakness in the economy by using austerity measures must be fiercely opposed.
The HEROES Act was passed by the House of Representatives and should be supported.
It will put real resources into key sectors of the economy and address issues that will help Working People through this crisis.
In addition, we need real tax reform that implements a progressive tax system and will result in programs that put people to work, promotes a scientific approach to problem solving, and provides education, housing and healthcare for Working People.
The Working Class did not create the economic crisis and for decades we’ve seen wealth disparity grow.
Now is the time to make the very rich pay their fair share.
And in doing so, provide real relief to the overwhelming majority of the American People.