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Richard Trumka Addresses CSA’s 50th Anniversary Gala

April 30, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators is celebrating its 50th year of unionism this year. On Friday evening, April 27, it hosted a gala at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka spoke about the importance of resisting attacks on public education and the urgent need for all union members to become volunteers in this year’s upcoming presidential election.

CSA’s members work as principals, assistant principals, supervisors and education administrators in the City’s public school system. Its president, Ernest Logan, introduced Academy Award winner and Screen Actors’ Guild member Susan Sarandon, who in turn introduced Trumka.

Before he talked to the audience about “Labor 2012,” the federation’s campaign to increase jobs and organize 400,000 union members as volunteers to get President Obama reelected, Trumka spoke with LaborPress.

The federation has been vocal about the need for trillions of dollars’ worth of public investments to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, build and rebuild schools and build-out new, energy-efficient technologies.

“If you take away the Bush tax cuts, and end the two wars [Iraq and Afghanistan], we’ll have more than enough revenue to rebuild existing and build new infrastructure,” said Trumka.

While President Obama has recently highlighted the efforts of some U.S. companies of “insourcing,” companies relocating their manufacturing operations from abroad back to the U.S., LaborPress asked Trumka why U.S. companies should build here at home, even with tax incentives, when they benefit from low-wage labor abroad.

“We need a policy that provides an incentive for more companies to insource. But then we need to look at how all policies integrate together—trade, tax and industrial policy,” Trumka said.

Trumka explained that when China manipulates its currency to keep its value lower against the U.S. dollar, Chinese, U.S. and any other foreign company with operations in China benefit.

“They have a 40 to 45 percent advantage over an American producer because of the currency manipulation. They also have an 80 percent advantage in trade because they’re not enforcing their minimum wage, child labor and health and safety laws,” Trumka noted.

He added, “We’re looking at a couple of systems, one of which would reward companies with a lower tax rate the more they produce in the U.S.”

LaborPress has reported on how some New York unions are expressing interest in using their members’ pension monies to invest in infrastructure projects. Trumka said the federation has already partnered with the Clinton Global Initiative whereby the federation has committed up to “$10 billion in pension assets of working families into energy infrastructure as an opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, develop new industries in the U.S., enhance our country’s global competitiveness and reduce the threat of climate change.”

What would Mitt Romney’s presidential victory mean for labor if he wins in November?

“Let’s forget about labor for the moment and let’s talk about the country. For the past 30 years, neo-liberal policies brought the country to the precipice of financial ruin. If you read Romney’s 86-page fiscal and economic policy, it boils down to two sentences—deregulate us, lower our taxes and we’ll create jobs,” said Trumka.

He warned, “The country would be in an economic depression by the end of Romney’s first term if elected, which will make him a one-term president.”

After his introduction by Susan Sarandon to the CSA members, Trumka looked to Mr. Logan and said, “because of Ernie’s leadership, he’s raised his union’s profile to ensure that his members’ voices are heard, which is not always easy. For your leadership, I want to say, ‘Thank You.’”

He then stressed the important need to preserve public education and protect it from private money influence.

“Private money in public education is no substitute for public financial support.”

In a broadside to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Trumka noted, “We can’t allow our politicians to build new convention centers while allowing Wall Street to take over public schools. We can’t let our children be left at the mercy of the 1 percent.”

He added, “I know you’re overworked and that the constant attacks on public workers are demoralizing. But the good news is that the tide has begun to turn. We witnessed new membership growth last year, we’re organizing in new fields…..right here in New York, and we’ve been reenergized in traditional industries such as auto.”

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