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This could be the start of something big

New and old strands of youth, community, labor and peace organizing – voicing growing anger over the state of our economy and our democracy – will come together in a series of events here over the next week, with thousands expected for a major Columbus Day demonstration.

Holding their ground outside the Federal Reserve on LaSalle Street, Occupy Chicago – one of many ongoing actions inspired by Occupy Wall Street, which is now backed by the AFL-CIO – has brought new momentum and visibility to concerns that labor-community coalitions have been pressing since the 2008 bank bailout.

The Tribune reports that Occupy Chicago’s numbers are growing; In These Times has the inside story. We Are The 99 Percent offers the demonstrators’ own pointed and poignant tales.

On Friday, October 7, Stand Up Chicago and the Chicago Political Economy Group are releasing a report analyzing unemployment in Chicago and proposing a Chicago Community Jobs Fund to create 40,000 jobs (more below).

Also Friday, Chicago Jobs With Justice (which celebrates its 20th anniversary Tuesday) is holding its monthly unemployment report event, pointing out that of 100,000 jobs added last month, half were striking Verizon workers returning to their jobs.  “The private sector cannot create jobs in a weak economy with little demand,” said Susan Hurley.  “We can only create jobs with major federal investment.”

On Saturday, October 8, Occupy Chicago will join scores of groups protesting the tenth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.  They’ll rally at noon at Michigan and Congress; speakers include Alejandro Villatoro of Iraq Veterans Against the War, who recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan; Mary Dean of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who spent a month in Afghanistan this summer; and former Chicago activist, Black Agenda Report editor Bruce Dixon.

They’ll march past Obama 2012 campaign headquarters at the Prudential Building, where they’ve held a two-day vigil, and end up joining Occupy Chicago at the Federal Reserve building at Jackson and LaSalle.

The cost of the war is now approaching $500 billion, by one calculation.

On Monday, thousands of Chicagoans – people “fed up with big bank greed and Wall Street corrupting our democracy” — will protest at two financial industry conventions and converge for a mass rally at the Art Institute, sponsored by the Take Back Chicago coalition.  Their goal:  “To begin taking back the jobs, homes, and schools stolen from us by the greed of big banks and big business.”

Local groups belonging to National Peoples Action will protest outside the annual conference of the Mortgage Bankers of America at the Hyatt Regency, Wacker and Stetson, at 4 p.m.  MBA includes the nation’s largest banks along with independent mortgage companies.

Protestors will demand that banks reduce principals on all underwater mortgages in order to stop foreclosures and spur the economy (see Newstips, Communities to Banks: You can fix housing crisis, economy).

Also at 4 on Monday, college students will protest at the Futures and Options Expo (which includes the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) at the Chicago Hilton at Balbo and Michigan.  “We’re going to the source – to the people who have hurt us in this recession,” said Haley Leibovitz, a Roosevelt University student active in Next Up Chicago, a network of young labor activists.

At the same time, the Chicago Teachers Union will rally at the Chicago Board of Trade, where $15 million of TIF money was spent on remodeling, and labor groups will rally for jobs at the Daley Plaza and the Federal Plaza – all marching to the Art Institute at 5 p.m., where the Futures Expo holds its opening reception.

Further actions, focused on taking back jobs, homes, and schools, will continue through the week.

A new report analyzes unemployment in Chicago and proposes a plan to add 40,000 jobs here.  Chicago has been particularly hard hit by the jobs crisis, according to the report; unemployment is double what it was five years ago, and remains in double digits.  “Chicago is rapidly losing its jobs base” and the stability it brings to communities and families, according to the report.

Over 272,000 Chicagoans are unemployed, with strong negative ripple effects – foreclosures up, vacancies and crime up, property values and local government revenues down, and cuts to education and public safety.  Nearly two-thirds of unemployed workers come from the service sector.

Researchers interviewed 14,000 unemployed Chicagoans and found they identified lack of jobs, particularly youth jobs, as a root cause of many community problems.

The report proposes a series of Chicago job corps focused on the social infrastructure – schools, health care, child care, neighborhood improvement and youth.

They’d pay for it with a financial speculation fee of 25 cents for each futures or options contract sold on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange or the Chicago Options Exchange.

Since the average contract is valued at $233,000, a 25-cent charge would have no impact on trades – but since over 12 million such contracts are executed each day, it would generate nearly $1.4 billion a year, based on last year’s trading volume.

It would be paid by traders, not by the exchanges;  it would cover financial instruments licensed to Chicago exchanges, which cannot be traded elsewhere.  (See Newstips 6-12-11 re. CME’s ongoing threats to leave the state unless they get a tax break.)

The Tribune recently reported that Bill Gates now backs a financial transaction fee, and in his new book, Ron Susskind reports that President Obama originally favored such a fee, but was blocked by advisers.

Last year 25 aldermen backed a hearing on a proposal for a voter referendum on instituting a financial transaction tax, but it was never brought to the Council floor.  Ald. Richard Mell proposed such a fee in the ’90s.

“Our city is facing a massive jobs crisis, one that requires direct and targeted job creation for those groups and communities hit hardest by unemployment,” according to the report.

“Our jobs plan will not only provide 40,000 Chicagoans with living wage, full-time jobs that match their existing skills and experience, but will serve as an investment in our communities, making them safer, stronger and more vibrant.”

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Category: banks & credit, economy, jobs, labor, organizing, peace, schools, taxes

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One Response

  1. […] Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the Chicago Options Exchange – and that a tiny financial transaction tax could raise huge amounts of money for the […]


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