Monday, September 03, 2007

Anti-Labor Day

September 3, 2007, 8:00 a.m.

Anti-Labor Day

As befits one of the most anti-union, anti-labor states in the nation, none of the top four local papers -- Daily Iowan, Des Moines Register, Gazette and Press-Citizen -- have editorialized about (or even much recognized) that this is "Labor Day."

Because you wouldn't know from the papers today, I thought perhaps it worthwhile to report here that, yes, there is a Labor Day Picnic today in the City Park in Iowa City, upper level Shelter 2, 12 noon to 3:00 p.m. City Council candidate Mike Wright (and others) will speak. It's always a great event. I'll see you there.

The DI is mostly sports, celebrating the Hawkeyes' unimpressive win over some Illinois high school team last Saturday. (This fall's schedule has been rigged so we won't have to suffer the embarrassment of even playing teams like Ohio and Michigan. Of course, we do end the season with Western Michigan, which showed its football prowess last Saturday in holding West Virginia to only 62 points in Western Michigan's 62-24 loss.) The Register at least has another editorial in support of universal, single-payer health care. The Gazette has it's usual "Homers and Gomers." And the Press-Citizen has now caught up with what I was blogging about -- and The Gazette and Register were editorializing about -- last Saturday: the court decision finding Iowa's ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional.

So it's once again been left up to Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan to remind us what today is all about.

Child labor laws, 40 hour weeks, health insurance, weekends, overtime, vacations, the minimum wage, sick leave, parental leave, OSHA, pensions, disability insurance, employment nondiscrimination, Social Security, health insurance, and so much more. We owe organized labor for all of this.
Here's the whole of his latest "Sullivan Salvos":

Monday marks Labor Day. Every year, I write essentially the same piece, noting the good that organized labor has done for this country.

I said I wouldn¹t do it this year. Sorry, but I can¹t resist. Labor Day is too important to me.

Child labor laws, 40 hour weeks, health insurance, weekends, overtime, vacations, the minimum wage, sick leave, parental leave, OSHA, pensions, disability insurance, employment nondiscrimination, Social Security, health insurance, and so much more. We owe organized labor for all of this.

But labor is not just a part of the past. If we are to have a successful future, labor will need to play a key role. Organizing for better wages and benefits is still the key to pulling folks out of poverty and into the middle class.

You will hear people complain about labor, and explain how labor makes the US ³less competitive². Americans must quit buying into this BS. Who were the real heroes of 9/11? Not Rudy Giuliani, but police, firefighters, and EMTs ­ all union members. We need organized labor now more than ever. It is the great equalizer, and our best anti-poverty program.

I would like to see more Democrats point out how un-American it is for large multi-national corporations to exploit labor and the environment around the globe. I would like to see them stand with labor ­ not just at election time, but all year round.

Similarly, just as corporations have gone global, so must unions. It does no good for anyone to have American workers compete with foreign workers who feel they must settle for so little. When workers of the world unite, workers of the world will improve their lot.

We are frequently urged to support the troops; that is as it should be.
We should also show support for the working men and women of the world. It is un-American to let global profits trump the needs of our families.

Along similar lines, I encourage everyone to reread the final chapter of the Barbara Ehrenreich classic Nickel & Dimed.

You can certainly reread the whole book; it is fantastic. But the final chapter really sums up the difficulties faced by the working poor, including all the ways that organizing can & does help.
Of all the widely-distributed, free e-zines from public officials in this country, "Sullivan's Salvos" is the most constructive, compassionate, consumer-and-taxpayer-oriented, generally supportive and informative of which I am aware. If you're not on the list, but would like to be, just email with "subscribe" in the subject line.

In fairness, both the Press-Citizen and Gazette did permit others to say something nice about labor this one day of the year.

In fact, it was Rod Sullivan again who had the op ed column in the P-C. It's a moving story of three generations of his family and the beneficial role of unions in their lives that he has personally witnessed (and benefited from). Read it: Rod Sullivan, "Honoring Our Labor Heroes," Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 3, 2007, p. A11. Although, unfortunately, the paper chose to omit any link to his piece from its opening Web page listing of "Opinion" for the day, so without my link you'd have to know how to hunt for it.

The Gazette offers us Ross Eisenbrey, "Labor Day Marks Bad News for Laborers in America," The Gazette, September 3, 2007, p. A4, at the very bottom of its editorial page. Eisenbrey is vice president and policy director of the Economic Policy Institute so, as you might suspect (and the headline hints) it is more in the nature of a news story than an opinion piece. Any passion is found in the numbers, the absolutely devastating numbers, regarding the destruction of America's middle class that followed the deliberate devastation of the union movement, and creation of an ever-increasing gap between the incomes and other benefits of the very rich and those of the working poor and working class.
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Julia said...

Not to defend the Gazette, but they did have an editorial on Sunday praising the "Iowa work ethic" and talking about the new report issued by the Iowa Policy Project, pointing out that even though jobs are being added in Iowa, median income is dropping because the new jobs are in the service sector and have lousy pay.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the flip side of organized labor; racketeering, the mob, etc.

Not everything Labor has done is bad, but like everything else some balance is needed here. This is 2007, not 1907 but the rhetoric here is basically the same. If you want other countries to engage in the types of worker protections and higher wages that came to the US, protectionism by getting rid of NAFTA or the WTO isnt the way. The answer is raising the living standards in China, Mexico, India, Africa and bring them the benefits of trade. As those economies continue to develop their workers will enjoy higher standards of living. We are not going back to the manufacturing days in the US of the 40's and 50's. After the war we were literally 50% of the world GDP. That isn't sustainable. This takes time, even generations to develop...just as it did here in the United States. Simply cutting off trade is not going to bring back manufacturing jobs. I would hope the OECD would bring back negotiations on the Multi-Lateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) and we can bring even better capital flows and transparency to global capital markets thus spurring economic growth and raised living standards.

Anonymous said...

Barleykorn is right.

Even the immigration problem could be solved by raising the standard of living in Mexico. How one does that with a corrupt Gov't in Mexico City is a problem.

And yes, the labor unions were corrupt too. That was vexing.

Workers in America seem to be running scared since Reagan busted the union. Not much power there.

I know someone in school at Bradley U. They didn't bother calling off school for this holiday. Who cares?