Thousands of people rallied at Los Angeles City Hall on Friday seeking support of bills intended to create jobs. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka were among the elected officials and labor leaders who spoke at the rally.
"We're calling for what everybody talks about but very few elected officials are actually acting on, and that is the creation of jobs," said Maria Elena Durazo, executive director of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
"It's the only way that we're going to get out of this terrible economy – by putting people back to work."
Durazo called for "good, middle class jobs" and advocated against outsourcing.
"Look at Wall Street," Durazo said. "They're back to making new record profits. Why can they do better, but regular working men and women can't do better, and the only thing we can expect is a minimum wage job? For us, that's unacceptable."
"Outsourcing is a bad way to go because you may say (a worker) is going to get a certain job, but on the other hand, if it's going to be at minimum wage, with no benefits, then how does that help a family get fed?"
"That family has to get subsidized by public assistance or food stamps or something else so low wage jobs is not the way to go to get this economy back on track."
Durazo called on the federal government to give the assistance needed to implement the so-called "30-10 initiative" – Villaraigosa's proposal to implement a dozen major transportation projects in 10 years instead of 30 as originally planned.
Funding for the projects is guaranteed through Measure R, a half-cent sales tax increase that Los Angeles County voters approved in 2008.
The projects include the Westside Subway Extension, a portion of the so- called Subway to the Sea; a regional connector that will link several light rail lines passing through downtown Los Angeles; and the Crenshaw corridor transit project.
According to the mayor's associate director for transportation, Lisa Hansen, the estimated cost of building all 12 of the projects over 30 years is $18.5 million. She said finishing the projects in 10 years would reduce the cost to about $14 billion.
Durazo said if the federal government invests money in the projects now, and agrees to be paid back over time, it would quickly create 166,000 construction jobs and at least 2,800 permanent operations and maintenance jobs.
"We need the federal government to act on this," she said.
Organizers expected about 2,000 people to attend the rally. With more than 50 buses dropping off and picking up rally spectators at City Hall between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. major traffic jams were expected downtown, according to Caroline O'Connor, the director of communications for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
(KPCC's Brian Watt contributed audio to this report.)