Outrage of a distinctly liberal variety was on display Wednesday on the Commons, as the Unemployed and Underemployed Support Group of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center called for — among other things — passage of President Barack Obama’s Local Jobs for America Act.
The event, held under the Bernie Milton Pavilion, was just one of more than 100 similar rallies held across the country as part of a “Jobs with Justice” day, according to the PovertyInAmerica blog. A circulating group of around 30 to 40 people attended, with pedestrians intermittently stopping to watch.
Workers expressed their frustration and anger with what they said were the inadequacies of Obama’s push for more jobs.
“We are desperate; we need to get back to work,” said Carlos Gutierrez, a community union organizer with the Workers’ Center.
Gutierrez used his personal story — as an immigrant, he said he has been working “since I was eight” — to counter the notion that “if you’re unemployed, it must be your fault.”
Other workers spoke in support of Gutierrez.
“If Congress focuses on reducing the federal budget deficit rather than fixing the jobs deficit, millions of workers and communities will suffer,” said Bev Abplanalp, co-founder of the Unemployed and Underemployed Workers Support Group.
Local politicians also spoke at the event, tapping into the apparent anger and disappointment with the Obama agenda.
Dan Lamb, a district representative for Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), emphasized the good the 108th Congress had done, while making sure to state his boss’s commitment to doing more.
“We raised the minimum wage, extended unemployment benefits” and, generally, “got some very good things for workers."
Still, “we didn’t get everything we wanted,” Lamb said, adding that it was essential to block the extension of former President George Bush’s tax cuts.
Like Gutierrez, Kathy Herrera (D-5), a Tompkins County legislator, used her life story to support action for the “jobs emergency.”
“I have a house [now],” Herrera said, adding that it is “something ‘scrubbing-the-floor-Kathy’ would never have dreamed of.”
“Now, I work to change the system,” Herrera said.
Pam Mackesey (D-1), a Tompkins County Legislator running for the New York State Senate seat of six-year incumbent George Winner (R-53), gave a rousing speech on the country’s economic inequality.
Mackesey said that the State Senate had “deserted” the people while “we are losing the middle class.”
Protestors held signs on stage that read, “We Demand the Change We Voted For” and “Make Wall Street Pay.”