You’re Invited: Portland Labor Unions and Occupy Plan a “People’s Budget” Forum

By admin / On / In Local 88

In response to the cuts to jobs and services slated across the Portland Metropolitan area due to budget deficits, a coalition of labor and community groups is organizing a Community Assembly to create a “People’s Budget.” It will meet on May 5th, 1pm at First Unitarian Church.

The People’s Budget event plans to educate community members about the budget process of the Portland Metro area, and to prioritize the community’s needs in a way that values jobs and the social services that the City has thus far planned to cut, while encouraging those affected to take action.

A People’s Budget is necessary because the budget decisions for the City of Portland, Metro, and Multnomah County are made largely behind closed doors, with little input from those who are directly affected by layoffs and cuts to services.

Portland city officials based their budget on the following assumption: because the recession has caused a major drop in property tax returns, large cuts in services and jobs have to be made.

No alternatives to a “cuts only” budget have been publicly discussed.  Nor has any mention of raising taxes on those who could afford it — the wealthy and the   corporations– to fix the problem.  Using the City’s large financial reserves to prevent cuts has thus far been “off the table”.

Richard Beatle, the Business Manager for Laborers 483 (Portland city workers) explains:  ” The Mayor and City Council have several options to deal with the city deficit that doesn’t  create layoffs and service cuts, but they are refusing to even discuss alternatives”

A “cuts only” budget means that labor and community groups must compete against each other in an effort to avoid cuts; unions are blamed for the deficits that result in cuts to services.  The People’s Budget planning committee plans to put forth alternative ideas.

Oregon’s politicians have said that we cannot tax the wealthy, regardless of the the constantly-shrinking tax cuts on a national level. Instead, politicians have insisted that money be taken from public workers through wage and benefit cuts or layoffs, or be taken from other working people in the form of fee increases, sales taxes, or cuts to services provided by public workers in the form of school, community center and park closures, transportation cuts (buses, trains and roads), etc.

The People’s Budget event will begin with different assumptions than the Mayor’s budget process: because the recession has caused a major drop in tax returns, instead of layoffs and cutting services the city should raise revenue by taxing those who can afford it while using available reserve funds to save and create much needed jobs.

Rather than blaming public workers for the recession, the People’s Budget plans to honor them for the services they provide to the public.

Instead of prioritizing a “cuts only” budget, the People’s Budget will prioritize the needs our the community — for jobs and against cuts. Instead of hiding Portland’s pro-wealthy investor Urban Renewal strategy, we plan to bring it into the light, along with other ways that the city has shaped its policies with the wealthy investor first in mind.

A number of labor and community groups have endorsed the People’s Budget event, including Jobs With Justice, SEIU 49, AFSCME 88, Laborers 483, Occupy Portland, Economic Justice Action Group, PCASC, CWA 7901, and others.

You are invited to attend the Community Assembly for a People’s Budget.  This event is being organized by labor and community groups to offer alternatives to the “cuts only” budgets being implemented on all levels of government, to the expense of both the public sector unions who preform these services and the community that receives them.  Due to space limitations and growing interest, we are strongly encouraging participants to RSVP by emailing Lisa Neef @ lisa@arrivestaffing.com