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Feature: Show us the jobs

By T.K.MALOY, UPI Deputy Business Editor   |   March 22, 2004 at 5:27 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) -- The AFL-CIO building on 16th St. by Lafayette Square faces the White House on the side of the building where a bright sign taunts the Oval Office -- "Show Us the Jobs."

This has been the theme of the union confederation since early on in the Bush administration when it became obvious relations were chilly. It has only grown louder as a theme in the past three years while millions of jobs have been lost. The 8 million U.S. unemployed has become one of the mainstay themes of the Sen. John Kerry campaign, who was endorsed by the union confederation last month.

To further emphasize the loss of American jobs during the election year, the AFL-CIO will be kicking off a "Show Us the Jobs" tour on Wednesday, which will travel from Missouri to Washington, D.C.

According to a release from the AFL-CIO, 51 workers -- one from every state and the District of Columbia -- will lead a bus tour through eight states and 18 cities to "showcase the devastating impact the lack of good jobs has on Americans, their families and their communities and to call for change."

"More than 2.2 million jobs have been lost since President Bush took office and the number of long-term unemployed has increased dramatically," said Lane Windham, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO. "Many laid-off workers have taken jobs that pay, on average, 20 percent less than their previous jobs. America's middle class is slowly disappearing as good paying jobs are being lost to economic policies that favor big business over average working Americans."

The tour is co-sponsored by the AFL-CIO and Working America, a new national organization for working people.

Windham explained that the "Show Us the Jobs" tour "will bring together real people to tell stories that have not made news headlines," and will visit communities that have been hardest hit by job loss, ranging from small towns to large cities.

At each stop, those on the bus will be meeting with fellow workers along with engaging in such activities as volunteering at food pantries.

The AFL-CIO spokeswoman explained that about half the workers on bus tour are union members.

"We see us as taking a stand for all working Americans," Windham said.

Such efforts, Windham added, "were a clear call that we need strong national leadership to turn this around -- or a change in leaders."

On this front, the AFL-CIO came out firmly in favor of the Kerry candidacy in late February, which gives the senator the support of the confederation's 13 million members. That brings him not only potential votes, but a lot of door knocking and political rally organizing.

The key theme, or course, at the AFL-CIO endorsement of Kerry was jobs.

"Brothers and sisters, America has a jobs crisis. We have a health care crisis. We have a workers' rights crisis. And it's mostly because America has a leadership crisis. We are here today because it is time we come together to put America back on the right track for working families. We've had three years of national priorities that placed the special interests of corporations and the wealthy over those of regular workers and their families. America needs good jobs," said AFL-CIO head John Sweeney when endorsing Kerry earlier this year. "Yes, that's what the sign above us says. And in case you haven't noticed, there's a sign around the corner, facing the White House that says 'Show Us the Jobs' the good jobs. It's time."

Sweeney added "Today, the general board of the AFL-CIO ... unanimously voted to endorse for the presidency of the United States ... Senator John Kerry. Today we know the time has come to unite behind one man, one leader, one candidate. Throughout his distinguished political career, John Kerry has been a friend of working families."

The White House and Department of Labor maintains that hiring is expected to pick up this year as the economic recovery continues.

In an appearance March 16 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bush cited the various hits the U.S. economy has taken in recent years -- including the tech bubble, Sept. 11, and the string of corporate accounting scandals -- adding, "In other words, we've overcome a lot. And the statistics show it. We're growing. Our economy is the strongest of all the major industrialized nations. It's a growing economy."

U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, commenting on the recently announced unemployment rate for February said, "The unemployment rate of 5.6 percent continues to be below the averages of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s," adding, "As the president has said many times, we're not going to rest until every American who wants a job can find one."

Some of the unemployed workers participating in the AFL-CIO "Show Us the Jobs" tour include a machinist from Iowa, a paper mill worker from Maine, a highway construction worker from Maryland, a textile factory worker from Massachusetts, an industrial engineer/technical writer from New Jersey; an information technology worker from Oregon and a long-distance operator from West Virginia.

The "Show Us the Jobs" tour kicks of Wednesday in St. Louis, Mo.

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