Barely 24 hours after a plane crash renewed attention to terrorist threats, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and John Olsen, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO and state Democratic party chairman, urged a crowd of local union and community members to focus on economic problems and organize support for economic legislation to help unemployed workers.

DeLauro and Olsen addressed nearly 75 representatives from local unions, community activists and political figures at the New Haven Building and Construction Trades Union Hall. DeLauro’s office has helped to organize more than 40 “Workers’ Rallies” around the country and in the Virgin Islands.

The rally was held as unions continue to struggle amid the recent economic downturn and as congressional leaders debate economic stimulus proposals. DeLauro and Olsen urged leaders to rally support for a bill sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that would provide $12 million in unemployment insurance and health care coverage for laid-off workers.

“We’re trying to bring a voice to the problem that exists,” DeLauro said. “People are united on fighting the war abroad. There hasn’t been much attention paid to what is going on with working families. We want to focus on how to help people make it through this time.”

The Senate is also considering Republican-sponsored proposals that would provide less direct funding for unemployed workers and more tax cuts for corporations.

DeLauro encouraged audience members to support Baucus’ plan and criticized the Republican plan as one that would provide economic relief to corporations, rather than to workers.

Olsen said that with the war effort and fears of terrorist attacks, economic legislation can get overlooked. He urged audience members not to allow the corporate tax cuts to pass “under the radar.”

“People are worried about jobs, about anthrax, about the war,” Olsen said. “But we need to still be vigilant.”

Bob Proto, president of Local 35, which represents Yale’s service and maintenance workers, thanked DeLauro for her consistent support of union causes.

The parent union of Local 35 and Yale’s other recognized union, Local 34, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, has been hit particularly hard by the recession. HERE officials have estimated that more than a third of HERE’s 265,000 members have been laid off since Sept. 11.

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