U.S. News

Labor unions protest in NY against bailout

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hard hats, transit workers, machinists, teachers and other labor unionists railed against the U.S. government’s proposed bailout of Wall Street on Thursday in a protest steps from the New York Stock Exchange.

Several hundred protesters yelled their enthusiastic support as union leaders decried a proposed $700 billion plan aimed at reinvigorating the credit markets by relieving financial institutions of distressed debt.

“The Bush administration wants us to pay the freight for a Wall Street bailout that does not even begin to address the roots of our crisis,” said AFL-CIO National President John Sweeney.

“We want our tax dollars used to provide a hand up for the millions of working people who live on Main Street and not a handout to a privileged band of overpaid executives.”

Signs read “No Blank Checks For Wall Street” and “Our Hard-Earned Pensions Are Not Up For Grabs.” Protesters cheered repeated calls for the government to spend money on education, health care and housing as freely and readily as it was proposing to do for Wall Street.

“We know that the economic situation has to be solved. But we want a responsible rescue, not an opportunistic bailout,” said United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

“And that means, just like every single boss says to me, that there should be accountability for the teachers, then there should be accountability for Wall Street,” he said.

“The bailout is a sellout unless it includes the victims of the tyranny,” civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson told reporters after the rally. “The homeowners need long-term, low interest rate loans and the restructuring of loans, not the repossession of homes.”

“This is a Roosevelt moment,” Jackson said, referring to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s program to lift the United States out of the Great Depression. “It’s time for reconstruction of manufacturing law, trade law and banking transparency.”

Editing by Daniel Trotta