North Bay labor unions and their supporters pushed for a massive federal jobs program Tuesday at a forum in Rohnert Park, saying it's the only way to jump-start a flagging U.S. economy.
"In this environment, government is the last resort," said Bill Scott, an official of the Marin Building Trades Council. "It's the only thing that's going to create demand and create jobs. A trillion dollars would get this thing started."
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, echoed the call, saying supporters should pressure President Obama to draft an ambitious jobs plan.
"This is a national emergency," Woolsey said. "We need government to take a major role."
About 70 people attended the public forum at Sonoma Mountain Village sponsored by North Bay Labor Council and Service Employees International Union.
Not everyone in Tuesday's audience agreed that a federal stimulus program is needed. Some questioned the cost, arguing for less government, not more.
"The pie is shrinking," said one critic. "You guys live in a bubble!" shouted another.
President Obama is expected to unveil a new economic program after Labor Day, with a mix of stimulus spending and tax cuts.
The president's $787 billion stimulus program in 2009 helped start the recovery, but it didn't go far enough, said Sylvia Allegretto, a research economist at UC Berkeley. The economy stalled earlier this year as Washington politicians argued over deficits and debt limits, she told the Rohnert Park group.
"The recovery was hijacked by the deficit hawks," Allegretto said.