by Nathan Jackson
The Seattle Speak Out for Good Jobs was loud, raucous and filled with people asking a simple question: Where are the Jobs?
Congressman Jim McDermott and King County Executive Dow Constantine were on stage listening to us tell our stories about how this unfair, unbalanced economy is hurting working families who just want a fair deal.
The room was filled to capacity with people standing on the side aisles rapt in attention as person after person talked about their concerns and struggles. Community members came from near and far for the chance to speak out to power.
The lines on both sides of the microphone at the Brockey Conference Center in South Seattle Community College were nearly to the back of the room. People were standing and pacing waiting for their chance to let their voice be heard because they were sick of being powerless and nameless.
A World War II Veteran talked about how the only way we could make a major difference was to get ownership out of the hands of the powerful and back into the hands of the people.
"We have money for wall street, we have money for wars, don't tell me we're broke,” the veteran said. “We bailed out big banks now where's our bailout?"
Deborah Osborn of Tacoma, who has two college degrees, spoke about how things used to be OK, but now she struggles just to get by with basic needs like food and soap, which she grows or makes herself.
"It used to be ‘put it on the shopping list, no problem,’” she said. “Now if I don't grow it, find it or grind it we don't have it. We have to count every last dollar."
One woman even told the crowd that we are all in this together, to which Congressman McDermott agreed that none of us are alone. McDermott highlighted that one of the solutions in Washington State is to create a state bank so funds that we deposit here do not get invested far across the country in places like Manhattan.
Dow Constantine spoke about how the only way we are going to move these things forward is if we make the common sense investments in education, transportation, roads and bridges and each other. He said that it was madness that business leaders were actively trying to stop progress on the investments that were necessary to get this economy moving again for the working families of King County.
As the momentum of over 100 speakers filled the audience with a sense of comraderie, the room was noisy and responsive with cheers, boos and chants of “Si Se Puede,” the chant of legendary union activist Cesar Chaves meaning “Yes, it can be done” interspersed with the speakers. People were shouting out responses and nodding their heads as speaker after speaker kept returning to a question about fairness and an equal opportunity. We were not asking for handouts, just a fair shake.
Every speaker talked about how they wanted to work and couldn’t find living wage jobs that would solve their problems. Some of us were angry, some of us were hurt, but we were all fired up and ready to do what we needed to make these changes to get this economy moving again for the rest of us.
This is just the beginning and it is a great start.