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Message to Congress: Time to Get Back to Work

November 3, 2010

By Mary Kay Henry, SEIU

Yesterday, nearly one in four kids in our country went to bed hungry. One in six Americans looked for work. Every minute two more families were foreclosed on. And every 20 seconds, another American filed for bankruptcy.

Today, the cycle repeats.

With all due respect to those who make a living interpreting results and telling the story of how we got where we are today, we need to take a page out of the book that every janitor, nurses’ aide, child care provider and bridge inspector knows by heart: When the break is over, it’s time to get back to work.

Don’t get me wrong. Elections matter. The outcomes have critical implications for the work ahead. Throughout the country, Americans went to the polls yesterday and elected a new set of leaders with the hope they will pass the changes necessary to reverse the downward spiral most families look into each day. People voted and clearly expressed concerns for their future, their kids’ future and their grandkids’ future. Some pulled the lever thinking about jobs, others about our national economy.

We have a responsibility to these families. Despite the ugliness of the campaign and the hate-fueled rhetoric that characterized too many of our contests, the election is over and the votes have been counted. To governors and members of Congress; to the outgoing and the incoming; to Republicans, Democrats and others – the American people are counting on you to pull together and get back to work on solutions to the problems we face as one nation.

As hardworking Americans from coast to coast know from personal experience – it’s now time to get back to work.

The stakes are too high to merely run out the clock on the lame duck Congress. For too long, people who get up and go to work every day have played against a stacked deck. They haven’t had a wage increase in 10 years, yet it was their hard work and investments in our country that bailed out those who recklessly tanked our economy. Well now it’s time for the country to invest in the middle class. We need a more fair economy that rewards work and puts more money in people’s pockets.

Congress needs to get back to Washington and immediately extend unemployment benefits set to expire on November 30. Far too many families are living on the brink, and we cannot allow millions more to fall through the cracks at the end of the month.

Next, Congress must pass a permanent middle class tax cut. And let’s be clear – building a more fair economy means ending the Bush-era tax giveaways to millionaires that do nothing to create jobs or stimulate the economy.

And to our newly elected leaders heading to Washington: Please show up ready to work.
While all around this country, individual campaigns revealed that you stand in many different places with widely divergent views, I think we can all agree that we share a commitment and responsibility to the American people.
For too long now, working families have been suffering while their elected leaders played partisan politics.

It must end with you.

Come January, you need to show up ready to represent the interests of the people who are counting on you. The only way we recover from this long recession is if we work together to put America back to work. We need to create more than 11 million jobs to get American families out of this recession. The American people are looking to you for a plan to get us there.

We must work together to make this economy fair. Republicans, Tea Party members, Democrats, business and labor leaders must work together to create good jobs that will help rebuild the middle class. Jobs that can support a family and help parents send their kids to school and plan for a secure retirement.

And corporate CEOs need to come to the table on jobs. Corporations had the freedom to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections this year–and they took full advantage of their new rights.

If corporations can afford to spend record amounts of money on candidates, they can afford to continue spending that money to put Americans back to work.

Break time is over. It’s time to get back to work.

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