Monday, March 16, 2009
St. Paul labor federation backs 'People's Bailout'
15 March 2009
ST. PAUL - The St. Paul Regional Labor Federation added its voice to the chorus of labor and community organizations calling on lawmakers to pass the so-called Minnesota People’s Bailout, a bill making its way through the Legislature that would strengthen – not cut – public services during these tough economic times.
“No one in Minnesota should be cold, hungry or homeless as a result of this economic crisis,” said Phyllis Walker, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800, a member of the Minnesota People’s Bailout Coalition.
Other coalition members include the Welfare Rights Committee, a group of low-income people fighting for public services that benefit the poor, and the Minnesota Tenants Union, an advocacy and organizing group for low-income renters.
Together, the groups are pushing legislation sponsored by two DFLers, Sen. David Tomassoni of Chisholm and Rep. David Bly of Northfield, who introduced the bill Feb. 9.
The People’s Bailout has three main goals:
• Protecting low-income and working Minnesotans from the worst effects of the deepening global economic crisis. The People’s Bailout would extend Minnesota Family Investment Program benefits for current enrollees, and it would expand access to the program, which provides cash and food assistance to low-income families with children. The bill also would extend unemployment compensation for out-of-work Minnesotans and put a temporary hold on the five-year limit for public assistance.
• Keeping families in their homes. The bill would put a moratorium on housing foreclosures and require banks and mortgage companies that have foreclosed on rental properties to honor existing tenants’ leases. Mick Kelly of the Minnesota People’s Bailout Coalition said thousands of tenants statewide have been left homeless by no fault of their own. Oftentimes, Kelly said, when a landlord is foreclosed upon, the bank or mortgage company ends tenants’ leases when reclaiming the building.
“Many of the foreclosed properties in Minneapolis and St. Paul had supplied affordable rents to low-income Minnesotans,” Kelly said. “These units must be kept open and available.
“Banks and mortgage companies that give loans to buyers of these rental properties must accept the responsibility of those landlords. Tenants should not be victimized, first by financially failing landlords and then by the banks and mortgage companies that initiate foreclosures.”
• Creating and protecting jobs. The People’s Bailout calls for a vigorous new public works program and would prohibit layoffs of state employees, including University of Minnesota workers, during the economic crisis.
Walker, whose union represents workers at the University of Minnesota, called a bailout for working families a matter of fairness.
“The banks and corporations are getting billions of dollars to survive the economic crisis,” she said. “Meanwhile, working people are being laid off in massive numbers. The Legislature must show that it represents the people of this state by passing this act and taking other concrete steps to protect Minnesotans from the worst effects of this crisis.”
The St. Paul Regional Labor Federation passed a resolution in support of the Minnesota People’s Bailout at its Feb. 11 meeting, pledging to “commit its resources to seeking solutions that restore the safety net for those in need.”
Reprinted from the St. Paul Union Advocate.