Moderated by Tom Sabulis
Monday is Labor Day. What does that mean to you? Do you reflect on your job, give thanks for your employment and celebrate your output? Do you honor the American working men and women who helped build our country? Or are you too busy wondering when your next raise might come, and whether it will beat the pink slip to your inbox? Today we hear about the progress — and plight — of the American worker, from both sides of the political argument.
Commenting is open.
Labor Day is not Union Day
By Mark Mix
Most Americans realize that Labor Day is about celebrating workers and their contribution to our free society, but that won’t stop union bosses from stealing the spotlight to push their own agenda.
Despite this, there is still much to celebrate this Labor Day. Workers from across the country have made substantial gains for workplace freedom.
In America’s newest Right to Work state, a growing number of workers from across Michigan are joining the fight to protect their right to work from union bosses. In Wisconsin, the state supreme court upheld in their entirety Gov. Scott Walker’s public-sector unionism reforms, commonly known as “Act 10,” which grants right to work protections to most Wisconsin government employees.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga staved off unwanted United Auto Workers unionization via a backroom deal between company and union officials that featured a coercive card check campaign.
And in Illinois, a mother named Pam Harris, joined by other parents and family members who provide home-based personal care to special needs individuals, took a corrupt quid pro quo government unionization scheme all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In that case, now-imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and current Gov. Pat Quinn issued executive orders designed to force home-based personal care providers into Service Employees International Union ranks. The court struck down the scheme, ruling that individuals who indirectly receive state subsidies based on their clientele cannot be forced to pay compulsory union fees. The court’s ruling renders unconstitutional similar home care unionization schemes in effect in at least 13 other states.
In the wake of the Court’s ruling, SEIU officials were forced to back down from demanding $11 million in annual forced dues payments from 25,000 Illinois providers.
The effects of that ruling are reverberating across the nation, and an estimated 500,000 home-based personal care and child care providers could now be freed from $80 million in annual forced union dues.
But despite these big victories for worker freedom, more work remains.
In the 26 states without right to work laws, workers who want to refrain from union membership can be fired for refusing to pay union dues. What’s more, millions more non-member workers have no choice but to accept union bargaining over their wages and working conditions, even if they want nothing to do with the union.
This despite poll after poll that show the American people overwhelmingly oppose forced union dues and affiliation, and over 93 percent of private-sector workers have chosen not to join a union. That’s why, as we saw in Illinois, union officials are increasingly reliant on their forced union dues-funded political activism to protect and expand their government-granted legal privileges of compulsion and extortion.
For union officials, political activism takes precedence over protecting worker rights. And why not? Big Labor’s $1.7 billion forced-dues-funded political machine enables Big Labor to wield an immense amount of clout in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals.
Why should union officials bother with the hard work of representing employees if they’re sitting on a forced-dues revenue stream guaranteed by the government?
As we are seeing in Michigan, Tennessee, Illinois and beyond, workers are waking up to the fact that this flood of forced-dues cash also breeds extravagance, abuse and corruption. In more than 200 active cases nationwide, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys are helping thousands of Americans like Pam Harris stand up for their rights against union official corruption, intimidation and even violence.
Perhaps this Labor Day, union officials for their own sake should take a step back and reexamine why millions of American workers want nothing to do with a union.
Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Workers, wages being left behind
By Charlie Flemming
This Labor Day, as we head to parades and barbecues to celebrate the achievements of America’s workers, economic anxiety will be hanging over our heads.
Millions of workers across the country are struggling to support their families and are barely scraping by. Wages have not kept pace with productivity. While CEOs, corporate shareholders and the 1 percent are enjoying record profits, many hardworking people struggle to put food on the table and gas in the tank. Working families are frustrated because despite our hard work, sacrifice and innovation, too many of us are not reaping the fruits of our labor. It’s time to give working families a raise.
Our wages haven’t remained stagnant by chance. The rise in political and corporate attacks on working people has meant that for decades, wages have declined or remained flat. The drop in labor union participation over the years has contributed to falling labor standards in Georgia and across the country. Good jobs with good benefits have become harder to come by.
Although working people are now more productive than ever, they are not seeing the rewards. Instead of relying on one well-paying job to support themselves, many people are working multiple jobs and are still unable to make ends meet. All of these factors are threatening to kill the American dream for millions of hardworking families.
It is time for working families to come together to push for a more equal economy.
This November, let’s elect leaders who put the needs of workers in Georgia first. Americans of all political stripes, whether they are progressives or members of the tea party, are looking for candidates who understand their economic struggles. Working people want elected officials who will stand with us, rather than with the wealthy and corporations, to reverse the trends of the last few decades.
We want leaders who support unions and recognize the importance of organizing and collective bargaining in ensuring safe workplaces and fair wages.
Improving the lives of workers by raising wages is not a lost cause. There have been signs of hope across the country this year. From Massachusetts to North Carolina, Minnesota and Kansas, in dozens of towns, cities and states, local government officials have responded to the needs of workers in their districts by increasing wages.
All candidates running for office this fall would be wise to adopt a working families agenda that raises wages, enacts family friendly policies in the workplace, and invests in research, education and infrastructure to create good jobs that pay well and are funded by closing tax loopholes for big corporations.
Candidates should pursue policies that ensure workers have access to paid sick days, increase the minimum wage for low-wage workers, and protect workers from retaliation for attempting to form a union.
Every day, workers labor and strive to achieve the American dream. This Labor Day should be a celebration for working families and all we can accomplish. Together, we can counteract widening income inequality and diminishing economic opportunity. Will you join me in the fight?
Charlie Flemming is president of the Georgia American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (Georgia AFL-CIO), representing more than 220 unions throughout the state.