On Thursday afternoon the AFL-CIO held a rally to protest the banking bailout and demand a peoples' bailout. There was a call for not just regulating the banks that almost took this nation down but also doing an about face and forcing the bankers to bailout the people.
Do you think Wall Street should pay for the jobs they destroyed?
"People in New York and across the country who did nothing wrong and want to work have paid for the misdeeds of the big banks with their jobs, homes and retirement savings," said Richard Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. president.
Do the elected officials of this nation think Wall Street should pay for the jobs they destroyed?
See a few photos and read some people's stories below.
Yesterday afternoon's rally was billed as the GOOD JOBS NOW CAMPAIGN! 15,000 were expected to attend but according to the AFL-CIO website 31,000 Deliver Message to Wall Street: Fix The Mess You Made. That is more than double the expected turnout.
The rally began at a staging area besides City Hall 4 p.m, just after Wall Street's closing bell. Before walking to the "Scene of the Crime" many people were heard discussing not just issue of justice and fairness but the survival of Democracy.
The main speaker at the staging area was the AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka who said he was "fired up but hopeful."
The message to Wall St. was clear.
The people were vocal. Most of the people there seemed to be looking for answers. Many were talking about record profits and banker salaries on Wall St. while people on Main St. are struggling. Democracy is threatened when bankers bring in record profits and salaries that stem from government loans as the people get public transit cuts, teachers get laid off and community outreach programs are shut down. Yesterday was also the final day of the nearby St. Vincent's hospital.
There was a call for "economic patriotism." Even though the old cry for single payer healthcare that was so strong at previous labor rallies is all over with there was still the belief that politicians are listening. People should have been more angry but spirits were high and just like Mr. Trumka, the people seem hopeful.
There was happy people;
And funny people;
Smiles all around;
Wonderful sign in the background. "People First Economy" what a concept. Never mind first, today's news would not be "three quarters of growth" if the people were even accounted for.
Waiting for the speakers we sang along with Queen "We will, we will Rock you" and Aretha Franklin "R-E-S-P-C-T" as we greeted one another and discussed the state of the nation. No politician attended this rally.
The first to speak was the usually very powerful public speaker Michael Mulgrew who is the head of the United Federation of Teachers and "Not the kind of person you want to ignore." Not that he didn't lead of with a powerful introduction but this time he decided to let others remind the people of what education is up against. After a few words of encouragement, he let struggling teachers and students do his speaking.
John T. Ahern, the president of the New York City Central Labor Council stepped up and said;
"Americans are losing their jobs, they're losing their homes, their benefits, they're losing their retirements, and brothers and sisters, they're losing their dignity...Americans are left counting pennies while bankers are counting billions."
The anger was building.
The student who spoke told people about the budget cutbacks at his school and worries that his education is threatened by a Wall st. bailout. He asked "Why are the children paying for this Wall St. mess?"
There were two spiritual leaders, a Rabbi and a minster. Ellen Lippmann, the Rabbi told a story, something about the reason that poor people are poor is because the rich people are rich and if people cannot find the answer than "God will rotate the universe in such a way that the star that is on top will sink to the bottom." The Minster gave a powerful speech that ended with "The Promised Land" speech of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the crowd went crazy.
A women from the Bronx stepped up to the lectern who should not be walking but has no choice. She is a renter and her building along with many others in the city was purchased by real estate speculators before the bubble burst. After the big corporation defaulted on her building all services ended. Besides no heat or hot water, with no elevator, she cannot get her wheelchair back and forth from her 4th floor apartment. This woman is still waiting for her bailout.
The last speaker before Richard Trumka was Benjamin Todd Jealous. The leader of the NAACP spoke about the people who had already forgotten the newly registered voters from 2008. He talked about money buying politician's votes but that money can't buy voters. He claimed that 2010 is when they find out about the voters.
The workers were fired up for the final speaker, Richard Trumka.
Mr. Trumka theme was "It's time to put people ahead of profits" and "Tough times don't last. Tough people do." As he reminded the workers of all the people that we are there for, the message was repeated over and over "Wall Street fix the mess that you made."
We’re here today for the folks who were played for suckers in the casino economy and will be silent no more. And the message we bring is this: Wall Street, fix the mess you made.
The AFL-CIO leader did not address the politicians cashing the checks of banker's lobbyist. As he told the workers that "we either sink or swim together" Mr. Trumka asked the bankers to stop flooding Washington with lobbyist.
America lost 8.5 million jobs because of the financial crisis created by Wall Street, Trumka said, and now is 11 million jobs in the hole.
We need to go back to basics, where good jobs, not bad debts, drive our growth. An economy where Wall Street is the servant, and not the master of Main Street.
We were reminded of how a real economy works. You can see the entire speech here;
The goal may have been to "force a which-side-are-you-on movement for U.S. senators."
One of the rally’s sponsors, National People’s Action, a coalition of community groups, dispatched more than 300 members to take over the lobby of the JPMorgan Chase headquarters at 270 Park Avenue at lunchtime. The protesters denounced the bank for not doing more to help struggling families and those hurt by the subprime mortgage crisis.
At the afternoon rally in Lower Manhattan, George Goehl, the executive director of National People’s Action, chided Congress for not having already enacted far-reaching financial legislation.
But it actually sounded more like an appeal to bankers rather than elected officials. A mass texting was called for, not to elected officials but to a bank and Mr. Trumka was pleading with bankers to ease up on bringing our banker washed tax dollars to politicians. Have we really reached the point where we need answers from the people who took TARP money and invested it in treasury bills instead of home mortgages and small business loans? Are so many elected officials talking about banking reform hurting the economy that we must hope the bankers will grasp the idea that either we sink or swim together?
Perhaps, so when the speeches were over the workers marched to Wall St. hoping the bankers could see us for a change.
Did you know that Broadway from City Hall to Wall Street is called "The Canyon of Heroes" for many parades?
By that time the banking fat cats were already home in their mansions but middle management was calling down from windows in a show of support and look, Daffy's is still going strong.
From the street the heroes welcome was unmistakable.
The marchers made the turn at the end of Broadway.
And moved toward Battery Park.
Just a few steps from where a sphere stands that was once round and once divided the two towers of the World Trade Center.
There was one last photo shoot of some of the more colorful protesters.
Then as the rally ended the workers went and supported the local businesses before a subway ride home. Nothing taste as good as a New York City hot dog after a march.
What does Democracy look like?
This is what Democracy look like!
What does Democracy sound like?
This is what Democracy sounds like!
What does representative government look like?
This is what representative government looks like!
The good police officer has a "V.I.P. guest list" for the people who are admitted to City Hall. And for the privileged, free parking on what was once City Hall Park.
Nothing left to do now but wait and see if the bankers get the message and stop buying those poor innocent elected officials.