The intent of Labor Day, as envisioned by our forefathers, has, of course, eroded over the years.
Most see it as an opportunity to have a last trip to the beach or backyard barbeque, but in reality, the state of labor and capital today make it more important than ever to embrace the meaning of Labor Day.
Created in the late 19th century as a way to repair ties with American workers after the deadly Pullman Railway strike, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday. The decades following saw massive parades and celebrations across the country honoring American workers. It wasn’t seen as the last weekend of summer, but instead as an opportunity to show appreciation for those who toiled and built a prosperous nation.
But now, in the 21st Century, we see fewer and smaller parades and celebrations honoring workers. Instead, we see massive retail sales and low-wage workers being exploited, working long-hours for a minimum wage that, for most, doesn’t pay enough to sustain themselves, let alone a family. We see our government attack the rights of federal employees, and the highest courts in the land strike down past laws that ensured public employees’ right to union representation. These attacks by anti-union politicians and employers are meant only to strangle and starve the very mechanisms in place to speak for workers: labor unions.
But this Labor Day, let’s vow to change the narrative. You can enjoy your picnic or family vacation, but when you return to work on Tuesday, do so with a renewed sense of purpose. It is time for all workers to help rebalance the power. As the new AFL-CIO television ad so eloquently shows, “Together we rise.”
So, between now and next Labor Day, let us join together to work towards electing pro-worker politicians. Let us join together to organize the unorganized. Let us join together to fight for our brothers and sisters for fair working conditions, safe workplaces, wages and benefits that lift all workers.
This Labor Day, let’s vow to work together because “Together we rise.”
Human rights, civil rights and labor right are inextricably connected. Just ask the people who are attacking them. the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, for example.
DeVos has been roundly criticized for undermining protections against all manner of abuses to which students are subject.
Consider that Devos wants to end the restrictions on disparate school discipline which sees black students more harshly penalized than white students. Similarly, protections against discrimination against LGBT students are being rolled back as are regulations regarding campus sexual violence at colleges and universities.
Obama-era rules governing the treatment of racial minorities in special education are also being undercut. Black children are placed in special education at far higher rates than white children and frequently taught in essentially segregated settings.
Secretary DeVos and the Trump administration are rolling back for-profit college rules. These Obama’s-era rules offer students protections against victimization by for-profit schools that fraudulently promise gainful employment outcomes to graduates and saddle students with large student loan debts.
All of these abuses are now compounded by DeVos’ attack on the employees of the Department of Education and their unions. DeVos has unilaterally imposed what she calls a “contract” on the DoEd’s nearly 4,000 employees, who are represented by the AFGE. The imposed terms severely restrict the union in its statutory responsibility to represent its members and seek to bust the union with annual membership sign-ups.
The AFGE has filed charges, equivalent to unfair labor practice charges in the private sector, with the Federal Labor Relations Authority. AFGE warns that what DeVos is doing to subvert union rights is going on at other agencies such as the Veterans Administration, too.
The mission statement of the FLRA says: The FLRA promotes stable, constructive labor-management relations through the resolution and prevention of labor disputes in a manner that gives full effect to the collective-bargaining rights of employees, unions, and agencies. Let’s see how that stands up in the Trump-era.
The Trump administration’s attack on rights is broad. The coalition to oppose these regressive actions needs to be broad as well.
It’s time for everyone to drop the word “reform” as applied to Trump administration policy changes. The right word can be chosen from the following: rip-off, scam, cheat, fraud or theft.
The tax bill enacted by the Republicans rewards the party’s big-league donors. It’s no reform. It’s trickle down economics at best and a national debt buster and excuse for draconian austerity at worst. A regressive tax policy which necessitates massive cuts to programs assisting the middle class and the poor is not a reform. It’s a cheat. And the tax plan includes deductions for closing a plant and moving it out of the United States. America First indeed!
Policies that undercut the job protections of working Americans are dangerous and unfair. Health and safety regulations are being weakened. Wage and hour rules are not being enforced. Job site health and safety violations are unreported and job site inspections are more infrequent. But those tax cuts for the richest Americans and corporations have to be paid for somehow, don’t they?
The Trump Administration weakened the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board by cutting staff and placing anti-worker, anti-Union reactionaries in key positions. One example of their anti-worker animus is a proposal to place tip income at the disposal of employers.
The same rotten rationale of promoting the self-interest of the greediest explains these regressive policies. Undermining the national parks system. Selling off public land. Opening up vast reaches of land and sea to petroleum drilling and exploitation. Forbidding discussion of climate change. Failing to properly address natural disaster. Deregulating restrictions on toxins affecting workplaces, air and water.
These changes are noxious and dangerous on many levels. They are not reforms. They are an attack on the infrastructure of American life that has made our country a beacon to the rest of the world. The light in that beacon is dimming. We are being ripped off.
Speakers at the Union Label Convention in St. Louis uniformly cited the key role played by solidarity in their various campaigns.
Among the speaker were APWU President Mark Dimondstein, BCTGM Secretary-Treasurer Steve Bertelli and Missouri State AFL-CIO President Mike
Louis. Speaking on the USPS-Staples campaign, the Mondelez-Nabisco campaign and the referendum on Missouri’s right-to-work law respectively, the speakers told how success was built upon Labor solidarity and appeals to a supportive public.
The Union Label Department unveiled its Union Label app at the Convention. The app, Union Label, on either an Android or Apple platform, is also based on solidarity.
To be successful, our app needs widespread adoption by Union-supportive consumers. It also needs solid support from unions and union members to build the database of products and services that the app will promote. Our app is a work-in-progress, updatable, expandable and interactive.
We plan to list more and more products and services that are truly union-made and union-performed. As our readers and online visitors know, ULSTD takes no advertising, charges no fees and restricts its promotion to union goods and services.
We look forward to getting help from the entire Labor Movement in building this app to its maximum usefulness. Find the app at Apple’s App Store or the Android Store. Or scan the QR Code shown here to get the app. Solidarity works. Get the Union Label app and show your solidarity in the marketplace.
Atrocious working conditions in non-union auto parts plants are described in a scathing article in Bloomberg Businessweek called “The New Detroit” from its March-April cover story. The cover photo was of a one-armed victim of an industrial accident beside this line: “The South’s manufacturing renaissance comes with a heavy price.”
The article describes workers who are “poorly paid, barely trained and under relentless pressure, and they are being maimed and killed.”
Bloomberg Businessweek reports that while Alabama boasts of itself as the “New Detroit,” “it also epitomizes the global economy’s race to the bottom” seeking low-margin orders in competition with Mexico and Asia.
A former OSHA official says the supply chain includes Bangladesh, Georgia, and Alabama and the auto parts suppliers’ workplaces are marked by “high turnover, training is scant, and safety is an afterthought.”
The article describes numerous rotten conditions and industrial accidents.
One worker who was injured at a non-union plant now commutes to General Motors Co., where the United Auto Workers represents the workers. He says the training is done “the right way” and that “they don’t throw you to the wolves.” Oh, yes, his pay rose from $12 an hour to $18.21.
The so-called New Detroit needs the UAW so it can raise its standards and to properly treat, train and pay its workers.
The body politic is crawling with dissent.
Town meetings with legislators are uproarious with citizens of all political persuasions who are deeply concerned about their healthcare, Medicare, and Medicaid. Scientists are marching in defense of unbiased inquiry. Educators are protesting privatization schemes. Environmentalists protest and publicize the threat to our water, our air, our land and the planet at large. Women have and are protesting misogyny, legal restrictions and workplace inequities.
Union members, including those who voted for Donald Trump and Mike Pence and their Republican allies in the Congress, governors’ offices and in state legislatures, have plenty to protest, too.
Bills in the Senate and House, (H.R. 785 and S. 545), originating from determined anti-union legislators, call for a National Right-to-Work Law. The objective is to destroy the ability of unions to protect their members’ interests. President Trump said during the election campaign that he favors right-to-work (for less). Vice President Pence was anti-union as governor of Indiana and hawkish on right to work. Republican-controlled legislatures press for right-to-work (for less) where they haven’t already got it.
A Repeal Davis-Bacon Act bill (H.R 743) is pending in the House. A similar measure is under consideration in the Senate (S. 244). A successful repeal would strip away the prevailing wage provision that enables unionized construction contractors to compete effectively for federal contracts. Voter’s remorse will be the least of the ills suffered if Davis-Bacon repeal passes into law. Good paying jobs with benefits will disappear as non-union contractors jump in with low bids.
Union Activism and Education Must Counter Anti-worker Program
What can be done? In-plant, job-site and community education on the issues and importance of union representation is required. The cost of freeloading coworkers should be made plain where right-to-work laws already are in effect and where they might be in the future. The benefit of the prevailing wage rule to working families and their communities should be widely advertised.
Education may forestall some of the negative impact of right-wing reactionary attacks on workers’ rights, attacks which will harm workers no matter for whom they voted.
People are looking for value. Union membership provides value to union members, employers, and society. The Labor Movement needs to do a better job in convincing America that it provides value.