Times getting tougher for Minnesota workers


From Wall Street to Main Street, news reports and new economic statistics reflect an economy in increasingly serious trouble.

“…[W]e are facing a financial crisis as profound as any we have faced since the Great Depression,” said Senator Barack Obama, AFL-CIO endorsed candidate for President, speaking Sept. 21 in North Carolina. “The era of greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street and in Washington has led us to a perilous moment. They said they wanted to let the market run free but instead they let it run wild.”

Nationally, the U.S. economy has lost 605,000 jobs so far this year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In Minnesota, the unemployment rate climbed to 6.2 percent in August — the highest state jobless rate in 22 years. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is just slighlty higher than the national rate of 6.1 percent.

(In June 2007, according to the Star Tribune, Minnesota’s unemployment rate rose above the national average for the first time in the 31-year history that unemployment statistics have been kept).

“Under Governor Pawlenty, we’ve failed to make the investments we used to make to keep Minnesota’s economy ahead of our neighbors,” said Steve Hunter, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

“Because we failed to invest in education, we failed to invest in infrastructure, we failed to invest in research, we’re falling behind,” Hunter said.

“In terms of the national economy, we’ve seen the Bush economic plan of giving tax cuts to the wealthy and financing the government with a credit card has failed,” Hunter added.

“At the state level,” he continued, “we need to elect legislators who are will to talk about tax increases so we can invest in our economy.”

Commenting on the federal government’s bail-outs of some of Wall Street’s biggest names, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney asked: “Will we finally help the millions of Americans losing their jobs, their homes, their health insurance, and their pensions? Or will this be another bailout without conditions, leaving Main Street in crisis and guaranteeing Wall Street’s crisis will continue in another form?”

“…[I]t’s not possible to revive the economy unless and until working families have more purchasing power,” commented Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton.

Steve Share edits The Labor Review, the official publication of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. Visit the federation’s website, www.minneapolisunions.org