The Goal Of Unions Is And Always Has Been To Better The Standards Of Life For Wage Earners
The TRUE meaning of Labor Day has been hijacked like every other American holiday and demurred to the official weekend closing the summer break with the introduction to a new school year. Vacation leave halts as we fall out of the heat into the autumn season. During periods of economic prosperity, this holiday held significant reverence within the American psyche and currently, enjoys a momentous renaissance. This rebirth hinges upon the ability to create sustainable careers following the global recession. Last week culminated in several pivotal events fomenting civil rights. The country celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ‘March on Washington‘, Women’s Equality Day, followed by a national fast food workers’ strike, and concluding with Labor Day weekend.
Women’s Equality Day commemorated the passage of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote. Women have made enormous strides since June 4th 1919, but issues remain to be fought. The proverbial glass ceiling still exists, and wage inequality continues between the sexes with women earning 0.77 ct on the $1.00 compared to their male counterparts working in the same position.
The ‘March on Washington’ included Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a Dream’ Speech. The central focus of the 1963 March was to raise the minimum wage from $2.00 to $2.13. Interestingly fifty years later, the minimum wage remains a national matter of contention. Since the late 1960s, the minimum wage has failed to keep pace with the economy, but if it had, the hourly rate in 2013 would approximate $10.74 instead of $7.25.
Pres. Obama, Fmr. Pres. Carter, Mrs. Obama and Fmr. Pres. Clinton
On Wednesday, August 28th, the official date of ‘the March’, notable progressive dignitaries spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, including President Obama, formerDemocratic Presidents Clinton & Carter.
Something is missing….no Republicans or conservatives accepted an invitation
Only A Fool Would Deprive Working Men And Woman The Right To Join A Union Of Their Choice ~Eisenhower~
Yup, GOP’ers thumbed their noses at the event while pundits and politicians alike lied about not being invited. Actually, they were too busy begging big oil for campaign donations, or lying prostrate at a Koch Brothers’ event. Others declared they had their own celebrations, not exactly in the spirit of inclusion but generally, the sentiment expressed was of disinterest. Labor Day was dedicated to the American worker. Traditionally, unions are the guardians of worker’s rights by establishing boundaries, which notably included a 40-hour workweek and determining hourly rates for Holiday pay. Prior to the four-decade war on bargaining powers in their efforts to negotiate fair benefits, unions were the protectors of a sustainable income by affecting competitiveness in the market place and fighting to ensure all workers were at least paid the minimum wage. They have been effectively vilified as the primary drivers of increased costs of goods and services. And unfortunately, Unions have been double teamed by corporate protectionists over the last three decades and the Republican Party, whose ultimate goal is to bankrupt them as that they are the most ‘deep pocketed’ donors to democratic candidates.
Ironically, during the 2010 midterm elections, working-class folks, some union members, either stayed home or voted for GOP Governors in traditionally ‘blue states.
Wisconsin’s Scott Walker signed Act 10, a law that severely restricted collective bargaining to meet the rate of inflation, which precipitated massive membership withdrawals and fund shrinkage, sometimes to deficit levels. Now Walker is contemplating repaying the 2010 campaign endorsement from the police and firefighter unions, both exempted from the Act 10 carnage, by extending the same austere law to their members.
- Gov. Christie – NJ
Unfortunately, union members in other states have yet to embrace the lessons yielded from the badger state’s row. The outset of the summer witnessed the continued endorsements from a half a dozen unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 164 and the Elevator Constructors Local 1, from Governor Christie’s 2009 campaign. It doesn’t make sense to support a governor who brags about beating the teacher’s union by forcing them to accept a pay cut, eliminating 10,000 union members — teachers and support staff, and increasing healthcare obligations to 1.5 percent of their salaries. Like Walker, Christie is selective of the unions he wishes to crush. In NJ, Christie set his sights on police, fire-fighter and teacher’s unions’ benefits, while defraying the destruction of labor unions.
Gov. Snyder – MI
Gov. Snyder of Michigan took another tactic by signing right to work-to-laws that exempts workers from paying membership dues while they reap the benefits of collective bargaining, thus undercutting union coffers. Public and vocational unions jeopardize their existence and membership by desperately clinging to the delusion of immunity from ambitious governors striving to fracture alliances. It is no secret; the Republican platform is firmly Anti-Union. The reemergence of union’s political influence is part of the economy’s silver lining arising from the smoldering ashes of the 2008 recession. Given the dramatic economic upheavals in the last decade, half of Americans perceive unions favorably, up ten percentage points from just two years ago. No surprises, Democrats possessed the most favorable perception of unions while Republican’s bottomed out at 23%.
- Gov. Kasich – OH
In 2011, Ohioans prompted the initial stirrings by repealing SB 5, Gov. John Kasich’s anti- union law intended to curb collective-bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers and gutting the political power of public-sector unions. This year, retail, fast-food, health home-care, nursing assistants, and migrant workers, constitute the low-wage sector occupations awakening the American conscience to demand livable wages. These jobs have become new employment staples, with non-management yearly earnings equating to approximately $15,080 annually compared to the required $30, 000 for a single worker to experience financial security. Traditionally, these entry-level positions were a portal to growing careers but now support entire families, absent benefits. With a ‘say anything’ publicity strategy, multi-national corporations shamelessly circumvent the social and moral contract to provide livable benefits by lamenting higher wages would decrease work forces and adversely affect prices. To survive, individuals must rely upon food stamps and/or public assistance with full-time employment. Ironic, these same multinational corporations don’t carry their equitable share of the tax burden either, yet enjoy record-breaking profits annually. Overworked, undercompensated Americans have much to gain in benefits, income and opportunity by allying themselves with unions. Unions work by securing wages from the ‘bottom upward’ boosting the public and private sectors’ competition for workers. Conversely, the FAILED Regan economic model of ‘trickle down ‘from 1979 to 2007, increased the richest top 1% of American households by 281%, or household incomes by more than $973,000. Comparatively, the poorest Americans’ incomes increased by a measly 16% or $2,400 for the same period…a shameful plight. That ‘Job Creators’ crap designed to rationalize reducing the wealthy’s tax burden in order to encourage investment has yet to materialize and ONLY justifies upward redistribution of wealth to the greedy, the selfish….the conservatives.
Unions are predicted to grow with evolving attitudes and demographic change. The influx of immigrants from countries with vibrant union movements has birthed worker centers that focus upon organizing immigrant employees. Additionally, these centers are developing coalitions with allies to coordinate class-action lawsuits against employers for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII, and other employment laws. Americans have yet to acquire the same worker protection’s their global counterparts enjoy, including universal paid sick leave, time-off to care for newborns and unionizing domestic workers. The new union movement will soon hopefully propose safer work environments for coal miners and plant workers, humane conditions for agricultural employees and protections for young people such as unpaid interns and college athletes. For now, the struggle continues to strengthen anti-discriminating laws; including the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA which would protect LGBT workers from the 34 states that don’t.
I’m proud my entire family attended the 1963 civil rights March in Washington and were proud union members including the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the National Education Association. The strength and organization of their memberships enriched all our lives, for that I remain forever grateful.
Frequently, the GREAT accomplishments of the American worker are discounted as menial, but Labor Day proudly celebrates the infinite reasons for us to be inspired by our past, renew our commitment to the present and protect the rights for future generations of workers.