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Put Our Economy Back on Track

This week’s historic vote by the House of Representatives in favor of President Obama’s plan to revitalize our economy and protect the jobs of millions of working Americans is proof that the change we voted for has finally arrived. The House acted boldly to protect jobs and create opportunity by passing President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestmant Plan. Against a backdrop of a worsening economic crisis that resulted in last year’s loss of 2.6 million American jobs, and layoffs that accelerated in the early part of 2009, President Obama’s plan will create or save three to four million jobs, strengthen our middle class, and improve the economy in the near and long term. As Americans face the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, we need to work together to put our economy back on track by passing this legislation.

President Obama’s recovery plan will create jobs, jumpstart the economy and reinvest in the long term health of our communities. The plan includes fast-track improvements to our roads, bridges, schools and other infrastructure which are crumbling because of delayed maintenance and heavy use. These public investments create jobs and help the economy in the long run. It includes additional federal resources for the vital health care, education, law enforcement and family services that states and localities provide for their citizens. These services are particularly important during difficult economic times when we most rely on them. We can’t put people back to work if we gut the public services that are vital to our communities.

With 11 million workers unemployed, with home values declining at an alarming rate and the need for vital public services growing rapidly, it is shocking that no Republicans were willing to put partisanship behind them and stand with President Obama. While economists and other experts across the board have praised the package and its focus on sound investments to stimulate the economy immediately, some Republicans on Capitol Hill are playing politics and standing in the way of recovery, blocking the progress that Americans voted for in November.

The Campaign for Jobs and Economic Recovery, a coalition of groups including AFSCME, Americans United for Change, Political Action, and USAction is organizing hundreds of grassroots events, grass tops contacts, thousands of phone and emails to Members’ offices and paid advertising in a four to five million dollar campaign. This effort will help move key votes in Congress to build support for this important package to begin to turn our economy around. The coalition on Wednesday announced a television advertising campaign targeting Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (Maine), Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa), and Senator Judd Gregg (New Hampshire) with ads demonstrating the clear momentum behind President Obama’s first initiative in office and calling on them to stand with the American people.

AFSCME launched a new campaign, "Make America Happen," as part of the coalition support of the President’s efforts to revitalize our economy, provide health care for all and strengthen the middle class. In the days ahead, thousands of AFSCME members will contact their senators, particularly those who remain on the fence, urging them to act responsibly and support the President’s plan. We’ve created a video which highlights the lessons from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to the Great Depression. You can watch the video and sign up for the campaign to "Make America Happen" at

We need to work together to get out of this mess. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. We’re going to flood the Senate with phone calls and letters. We’re going to fight to pass this emergency legislation and put America back to work. And we’re going to make sure that Senators know that working Americans expect them to put partisanship aside and do what is right for America.

We have a big task ahead of us. Every day of delay is a day when more Americans get a pink slip, when more communities see stores shuttering their doors, when more families find the American Dream farther from their grasp. The Senate must pass President Obama’s plan promptly. Let’s hope that Senate Republicans stand with the President during this crisis rather than playing politics like the House GOP.

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Gerald McEntee

Gerald McEntee

Gerald W. McEntee is the International President of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the most aggressive and politically active organizing unions in the AFL-CIO. Since 2006, 145,000 women and men have changed their lives by forming a union with AFSCME. McEntee was first elected AFSCME President in 1981 and was re-elected in July 2008 to another four-year term.

As a Vice President of the AFL-CIO and chair of the Political Education Committee, McEntee is a key leader of the labor movement and its political efforts. Under McEntee’s leadership, the federation created its highly successful and much imitated voter education and mobilization program, which increased the number of union household voters to a record 26 percent of the electorate in 2006.

McEntee has long been a leader in the fight to reform the nation’s health care system. He chairs the AFL-CIO’s Health Care Committee and is a co-chair of Health Care for America NOW!, a national grassroots coalition that has launched a $40 million campaign to guarantee quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

McEntee is a co-founder and chairman of the board of the Economic Policy Institute, the preeminent voice for working Americans on the economy. He led the successful fight to stop President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security, was an outspoken proponent for increasing the federal minimum wage, and is one of the nation’s leading advocates for America’s vital public services.

For his efforts to improve the lives of working families, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights presented McEntee with its prestigious Hubert H. Humphrey Award in 2004.

Before assuming the presidency of AFSCME, McEntee began his distinguished career as a labor leader in Pennsylvania in 1958. He led the drive to unionize more than 75,000 Pennsylvania public service employees, which at that time was the largest union mobilization in history. He was elected Executive Director at the founding convention of AFSCME Council 13 in Pennsylvania in 1973 and an International Vice President of AFSCME in 1974.

McEntee holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. A native of Philadelphia, McEntee and his wife Barbara live in Washington, DC.