A compromise bill has passed the New York City Council to require employers to give employees sick days. What’s surprising about this – or maybe not surprising – is that very few American workers receive sick days. Daily Kos has published a map of countries that require sick days. Once again, the U.S. does not follow the pattern of most developed countries. Workers in the U.S. are under attack. We need to look at other countries and look at our own history. It’s time to fight back.
May 14, 2013
March 14, 2013
Ralph Nader has been trying to keep Americans safe for over 50 years. He has written an essay for Common Dreams that considers the gap between CEO compensation and pay for working people. Today CEOs make 340 times average worker pay. In 1980, that figure was only 42 times average worker pay. Nader suggests that this difference is a good reason to increase the minimum wage. As Nader says, that’s a good “first step.” However, we need to look beyond the minimum wage. Whether we change the income tax structure or add a wealth tax, those who have the most – including very profitable corporations – need to contribute more to the common good. We need to move beyond the greed ethic and think more about how to preserve our common culture.
February 21, 2013
Writing in Think Progress, Pat Garofalo reports that Wisconsin legislators are now trying to attack private sector unions in the name of “preventing layoffs.” The plan is called “work-sharing,” and it would allow companies with union workers to cut hours without consulting unions. The only way working people will be safe from such schemes is to vote for politicians who support labor rights; however, they are hard to find these days. It will be interesting to see how Governor Walker reacts if this measure is passed. Who frightens him more, the Koch Brothers or the voters?
All eyes on Wisconsin – again.
January 13, 2013
One of my favorite writers, Laura Clawson of Daily Kos, has posted a video by a commentator from Fox News who thinks sweatshops are just a stage in economic growth. Clawson points out that many working people today are stuck in low paid jobs and unpaid internships. She right, but I think the issue is more serious. My problem with the logic of Fox’s commentator is that it’s one more step toward abolishing the 13th Amendment. Can people be free in a country where they don’t earn enough to live, a country where they have no security in health care or retirement? Are people who live in fear and want any better than slaves?
December 11, 2012
Speaking today in Michigan, President Obama put himself on the side of labor in its conflict with Michigan’s governor and state legislature that is pushing through “right to work” legislation. The President even said that such laws mean “you have the right to work for less money.” Great words, golden words, but we have heard words from this president in the past. What will he do? Actions matter.
In his first four years, the President has done little to help labor. He is currently said to be supporting a Pacific trade bill that would be as bad or worse than NAFTA. He also champions education “reform,” which is a smoke screen for busting teacher unions and enabling corporations to profit from public education. Labor supported Mr. Obama. It is time for him and other Democrats to return the favor. If they don’t, the elections of 2014 could be worse for the Democrats than 2010.
May 4, 2012
March 27, 2012
Writing in Common Dreams, David Macaray argues that labor needs to follow some of the down and dirty tactics of its opponents to defend itself against right wing attacks. He identifies three areas – sponsorship, patriotism, and safety net – as areas where labor needs to find some good slogans to counter terms that belittle union members.
I agree with Macaray, but I’d add another category: history. Americans don’t have the best memories. They need to be remind not just that unions brought the 40 hour work week (which few enjoy anymore) and workplace rights. They need to hear about the great strikes and labor martyrs, the people who went to jail and died because they wanted regular, “middle class” working people to get a fair shake and just a little justice. We need to remember those stories because we’re sliding back to the days when workers have no rights and corporations rule.
February 11, 2012
In Greece, workers have responded to government austerity plans with a two day general strike. The country’s minimum wage has been cut by 22% and over 150,000 public workers are set to lose their jobs. Who will win? Bankers and their servants in the government.
Belgium firefighters turned their hoses on riot police in protest of an austerity plan that will raise their retirement age. Again, working people pay for the mistakes of politicians and their allies in the financial sector.
Police officers are striking for higher pay in Brazil, a country that does not have to play the austerity game. In this case, workers are using leverage by striking at the beginning of a popular tourist season (carnival) and just two years before the country hosts the World Cup. Criminals, naturally, have been taking advantage of police-free streets, which is forcing the government to call in the military to perform police duties.
Moral of the story: Working people are not happy with the governments that are supposed to represent them but only serve the interest of big money. Faced with low wages and cuts, working people are taking the only action that makes sense – stop working.
February 6, 2012
Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson reports on the growth of lock outs as a tool companies use to punish workers and unions. Many of these companies are profitable, which lets them wait out unions or move operations to lower wage locations. Clawson documents several examples of companies squeezing middle class workers via lock outs. The result of these actions are lower wages, which will force Americans to choose between worse and worse employment options. Yes, we need to focus on creating more jobs in the U.S. However, those jobs need to pay a decent, living wage.
October 20, 2011
Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson outlines the campaign to overturn paid sick leave. Clawson cites a source that says the leading force behind this agenda is Yum Brands, which owns Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Taco Bell. If this is true, maybe it’s time to boycott as well as occupy.