This week’s Republican circle jerk convention taught us a few things. One, is that Republicans will repeat any lie to get their greed-centered fingers around the neck of power and another is that Republicans are nostalgic for a time when the working class was upwardly mobile… you know… when America was reaping the benefits of New Deal Democratic control, before CON, kiss up/kick down, anti-union, trickle-down policies destroyed the promise of a dignified, middle class life… a life formerly known as “the American Dream.”
Publicly, Republicans have no concept of the consequences of their actions. Despite all evidence that their trickle-down voodoo attacks on labor unions have destroyed the shared prosperity that once seemed an American birthright, Republicans continue to push the same policies that created the disparity in the first place. Republicans feign ignorance to the fact that the rise of an economically-vibrant middle class is undeniably linked to the rise of union membership… in fact, blaming weakened labor unions for the decline in living standard their presence once remedied. But this is all just a ruse to further concentrate power in the hands of the powerful. Republicans know this. They’re not stupid… but they’re betting that you are.
“Middle class wages, at least for the majority of people, are the invention of American unions, says Harold Meyerson, a political columnist for The Washington Post and an editor-at-large at TheAmerican Prospect. He says if big labor dies, then America’s middle class dies with it.
In a recent column, Meyerson points to the decades after World War II, a time of shared prosperity, when productivity and median household income both increased by over 100 percent. It was also a time of peak unionization.
“This had an effect on non-union workers as well,” Meyerson tells Lyden. “Non-union workers in industries that were heavily unionized, … their employers had to compete with union employers. This raised wages for everyone.”
As unions have declined, Meyerson says, the average wage in some sectors has fallen — in some cases dramatically. In the auto industry, unionized jobs once paid upward of $28 an hour. He says workers in both union and non-union plants are now hired at about $13 to $15 an hour, and in some cases can’t earn more than $19 an hour.
Without a middle class helped by unions, Meyerson says, the U.S. would continue down a path of massive inequality of wealth and low levels of mobility.
“People are not moving up the economic ladder now,” he says. “We would have real decline in wealth because people’s income isn’t keeping up, so most of their wealth is in their homes … [and] people have lost two decades worth of value on their homes. We would have a really strapped middle class.”
This, in fact, is what we have now, he says.”
Workers no Longer Share in the Wealth Their Labor Helped Create
Republicans at their circle jerk kept talking about how hard they worked to climb the success ladder they’re now trying to pull up behind them. Of course, this implies that if you’re not an entrepreneur or business owner, you’re lazy and not worthy of help. After all, that “help” would mean the benevolent rich might actually have to pay taxes – and that would be “punishing success.”
But, again, Republicans are liars. The American People are working their asses off and not getting anywhere.
From Psychology Today:
This was not the case from post-World War II into the 1970s, when wages rose in step with productivity increases. So, our parents’ generation (those of us over 40) saw a steady increase in their standard of living, while ours has remained flat. According to the study, this is true for everyone except the wealthiest Americans.
Where is the money going? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer, but two costly wars and rising healthcare costs can’t be helping things. [Read the report here]
But here is something that is quite troubling: The recent fight over public employees’ wages and collective bargaining in Wisconsin, coupled with the decline in unions, means that employees have lost the leveraging power to try to direct productivity increases into wage increases. The situation in Wisconsin suggests that the “have-nots” are fighting with the “have-nots.” Private, middle-class workers are looking at the so-called “entitled” unionized, public sector employees and supporting the reduction of their wage bargaining power. But, that is not the problem.
MUST WATCH: Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explain the problems with the economy in less than 2 minutes, 15 seconds:
The Caterpillar Strike: Workers Are Now Considered Pawns, Not Partners
The recent strike at Caterpillar proves that Republican trickle-down voodoo, union busting were designed to do one thing – concentrate wealth in the hands of the owners and turn the once-uppity working class into the working poor.
From Progress Illinois:
It is not unusual for a company if it is in financial distress, faced with outrageous demands or is unable to compete in a tough economy to play hard-ball during contract negotiations with a union. However none of these apply to the strike by Local 851 of the International Association of Machinists at Caterpillar’s hydraulic manufacturing plant in Channahon, IL. That is what makes this work-stoppage so troubling.
Caterpillar is a very profitable company. It reported second-quarter profits of $1.7 billion, up 67 percent from a year earlier; a year in which Caterpillar earned $4.7 billion in profits. Despite its profitability and the fact that Caterpillar workers had their wages frozen during the previous six-year contract, the company is demanding the wage freeze be extended for its 780 union members for six more years, that workers pay a greater share of health care costs and that major changes be made to the seniority provision in the contract.
Caterpillar instituted a two-tier wage system in the previous six-year contract with some employees starting as low as $12 per hour. With wages frozen and with new workers replacing senior workers as they retire the Channahon plant will eventually be manned by workers whose average wage is slightly over the poverty line for a family of four.
In contrast, all the union is asking for is a cost of living increase each year of the contract.
What is happening in Caterpillar’s Channahon plant is a microcosm of what has been happening to the middle class over the last thirty years. Stagnant wages, soaring health care costs, loss of pensions and other benefits, attacks on unions and the continuing outsourcing of jobs overseas are occurring at the very same time productivity per worker has soared and company profits are at record heights. Simply put, workers no longer are sharing in the benefits of their increased productivity.
With consumer spending accounting for 60% to 70% of GDP the continuing assault on the middle class is not only devastating to the individual, but also to the economy on a national and local level. Every dollar earned but denied to a worker is one less dollar that gets back into the economy. It is one less dollar the worker has with which to buy a new car or flat screen TV, or to pay for his children’s education and more and more frequently one less dollar to feed his family. That dollar denied the worker does nothing to help the economy if it sits in the coffers of corporations who currently hold over two trillion dollars in cash.
The one constant that held for generations of middle class Americans was the unshakable belief that if you worked hard and played by the rules your life would be better than your parents and that your children would have a better life than you. And for generations this was generally true. That fundamental belief that the American Dream works for everyone is now being shredded by the reality of our national economic condition.
Sadly, Caterpillar workers ended their strike, forced to take all the anti-worker concessions the profitable company demanded. Meaning, ALL American workers just slid further down the path to compliant serfdom, whether they currently know it or not.
The New York Times reported,
“During the strike, the workers often expressed anger that Caterpillar was insisting on a wage freeze when the company, the world’s leading producer of earth-moving machinery, had a record profit of $4.9 billion last year, with forecasts of stronger earnings this year. The compensation of its chief executive, Douglas R. Oberhelman, increased by 60 percent in 2011, to $16.9 million.”
So, the rich continue to get richer off the labor of the workers while Republicans continue to call the desire for a living wage an “attack on success.” Sounds like a recipe for revolution to me. I only hope I live long enough to see it.
Labor Unions and the Middle Class Rise and Fall Together
This Labor Day, to say that it’s a difficult time for American workers would be an understatement. Those not lucky enough to be born with a trust fund are still suffering the brunt of the economic disaster they didn’t create – and with President Obama’s penchant to “welcome” the same “Republican ideas” that destroyed us to begin with, there’s little to to suggest that the situation will improve any time soon.
While our “betters” in Washington sip from $350 bottles of wine as they plot the further destruction of the American Middle class, we need to remember that the Republican assault on organized Labor is an assault on ALL workers. A major new study from Harvard suggests that the decline of unions is responsible for a full third of the growth in income inequality for male workers. “Our study underscores the role of unions as an equalizing force in the labor market,” says Harvard sociology professor Bruce Western. Source: Mother Jones
President Obama likes to spread the erroneous platitude that, “Wall Street and Main Street rise and fall as one nation” when the true entities unquestionably linked are Labor Unions and an economically-vibrant middle class.
graph from ThinkProgress
WATCH Rachel Maddow discuss the link between Labor Unions and the Middle Class with Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America:
|Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in AmericaLabor & Industrial Relations Books)|
As those fortunate enough to have a job are celebrating a well-deserved day off this Labor Day holiday, and millions others are travailing the uncertainty of life during 30 years of the Reaganomics War against the middle class, let’s not forget the workers who fought, bled and died to create a better quality of life for themselves, their families and those yet to be born.
Sadly, Faux News propaganda works 24-7 to convince the willfully ignorant that we live and die under the benevolence of the American Oligarchs who pay less in taxes than they have in generations, yet cry they pay too much… deceptively citing their percentage of tax revenue, yet neglecting the fact that the top 1% now control near 50% of the wealth… while their corporations don’t even have the decency to pay any taxes at all. These are the TRUE PARASITES… living off labor of working Americans. Con think tanks distract from these corporate crimes by inciting workers to fight amongst each other… lest we remember that everything good about our standard of living came as a result of the organized labor movement.
WATCH: STOP THE LIES… Public Service Workers Under Attack:
Labor Is Superior To Capital
Despite Abraham Lincoln’s assertion, “Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration”… the modern Republican agenda can be boiled down to 2 words: CHEAP LABOR.
If Capitalists can no longer exploit slaves, they will seek to pay workers the least amount they can get away with for the sake of profit. The history of Capitalism is merciless. It enslaved nations, split up families and left generations in poverty suffering with broken backs and broken minds.
Yet, many see Capitalism as mankind’s salvation, allowing us to “conquer” nature, raise our standard of living and supposedly ensure long-term prosperity. To perpetuate that meme, however, pure Capitalists develop a plethora of excuses to explain the disparity in economic standards between the “haves and the have-nots.”
Not doing well in this capitalistic system? Well, it must be because you’re lazy, stupid or bad. Have you fallen between the cracks? You only have yourself to blame. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and marry a beer heiress. Work harder! Maybe your father can give you an oil business to run into the ground or a baseball team. Trampled under the merciless Capitalist system? You have only yourself to blame. The Capitalists are too busy making money off the backs of laborers to care.
Inherent in Capitalism is a lack of compassion and mechanisms to crush humanistic programs – like basic universal health care. In this system, nothing is worth doing unless some small minority of rich banksters can make a buck off the backs of the majority.
The Indian poet, linguist, and philosopher Shrii Prabhat R. Sarkar described Capitalism,
“A few become rich and others become poor. In such a situation, millions die without food, live without shelter, work without education, suffer without medicine and move without proper clothing. The society then splits into two distinct groups the haves and have-nots. The former is the class of exploiters ‘the capitalists’ and the latter is the class of ‘the exploited’ the disgruntled workers…. So the unchecked psychic urges and psychic pabula for material acquisition end in merciless exploitation. The inhuman exploitation causes the mass-level deprivation of millions of people. The curse of capitalism engulfs the whole of society. Thus capitalism is anti-human.”
Ideally, into this greed-centered, voracious vacuum, workers must step with the only strength they have – the power of their numbers.
Through the government of “We the People”, for Capitalism to function for all, it requires regulation and restraint. Totalitarian China, now the second largest economy on Earth, is an example of the fact that Capitalism is not synonyms with “freedom” and works a lot smoother for those at the top if workers have limited power. In fact, it can be argued that in the wake of the 30 year assault on the American worker, the economy of the United States, with the 3rd widest gap between the rich and poor on the planet – wider than the time before the FIRST Republican Great Depression – is resembling more of an Oligarchic feudal state than a vibrant democratic republic.
Before the labor movement, workers—men, women and children—put in 10 to 16 hour days, seven days a week – many times under unsafe working conditions with little compensation or time to even enjoy life itself. Labor organizers called on the government to mandate shorter hours. Workers banded together, and many lost their lives in the struggle. Powerful business owners fought violently against every concession. At Haymarket Square in Chicago, police gunned down protesters – even hanging some for inflammatory speeches.
But the labor movement continued to fight and die for worker’s rights and reshaped the face of America. Today we take these victories for granted and institutional amnesia enables the same anti-labor forces to slowly divide the people and whittle away their hard-won gains.
The American middle class, created by and made vibrant through New Deal polices, is under assault and feeling the pain.
Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, wrote in a column titled “The Real Lesson of Labor Day,”
“The Great Depression and its aftermath demonstrate that there is only one way back to full recovery: through more widely shared prosperity. In the 1930s, the American economy was completely restructured. New Deal measures — Social Security, a 40-hour work week with time-and-a-half overtime, unemployment insurance, the right to form unions and bargain collectively, the minimum wage — leveled the playing field.
In the decades after World War II, legislation like the G.I. Bill, a vast expansion of public higher education and civil rights and voting rights laws further reduced economic inequality. Much of this was paid for with a 70 percent to 90 percent marginal income tax on the highest incomes. And as America’s middle class shared more of the economy’s gains, it was able to buy more of the goods and services the economy could provide. The result: rapid growth and more jobs.
By contrast, little has been done since 2008 to widen the circle of prosperity. Health-care reform is an important step forward but it’s not nearly enough.”
According to The Democratic Policy Committee website:
• The minimum wage has remained stagnant while Congress and the President have received raises.
• Wages for average Americans have not kept up with productivity. Americans are working harder and expanding the economy but are not seeing a return on their efforts in the form of higher salaries.
• While corporate profits are up, worker earnings are down.
• The average CEO earns 821 times more than the average minimum wage earner. That is, one CEO earns more before lunch on a single day than a minimum wage worker earns all year.
• The cost of living has skyrocketed.
• Unable to make ends meet, millions of working Americans are living in poverty.
• Despite what right-wing propaganda tells you, most minimum wage earners are full-time, adult workers.
After a 10-year battle, Democrats in congress finally were victorious in raising the federal minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour in three steps over two years. A full-time worker making $7.25 an hour earns $15,080 a year. At those wages, the American Dream – to own a home, a car, vacation twice a year, send yourself and your kids to college, have insurance for sickness and retire in safety, is merely a pipe dream.
This is the reality of the world we live in. As discouraging as it may be right now, lets honor those who fought and died for the late-great American middle class by coming together again to win back the ground we have lost.
Let’s remember the labor movement’s greatest accomplishments so far:
- End child labor
- Establish the legal right of workers to form unions and collectively bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions
- Establish the 8 hour work day and paid overtime
- Win workers’ comp benefits for workers injured on the job
- Secure unemployment insurance for workers who lose their jobs
- Secure a guaranteed minimum wage
- Improve workplace safety and reduce on the job fatalities
- Win pensions for workers
- Win health care insurance for workers
- Win paid sick leave, vacations, and holidays as standard benefits for most workers
- Win the right for public sector workers to collectively bargain
- Win passage of the Civil Right Acts and Title VII which outlaws job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin
- Win passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act
- Win passage of the Family Medical Leave Act
The only way they can conquer us is if we allow them to divide us. Spread the word to your Faux News victim friends. United we bargain, divided we beg.
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