Monday, February 21, 2011

Now More Than Ever

Unions are passe. They're antiquated. No one needs a union anymore.

We've all heard this sentiment in some form or another. More so recently among some folks due to what's happening in Wisconsin.

Unions fought and struggled for years for many of the labor rights and protections we now take for granted. And, as union numbers have declined, so have labor rights and the proper enforcement of such.
  • Inequality is higher now than during the Gilded Age.
  • Workers wages have stagnated for decades.
  • This is the first generation that will do worse, economically speaking, than their parents.
  • Workers are working longer hours now than they have in decades.
  • Many workers are not properly being paid for the hours they are working. A phenomenon known as wage theft.
  • Workers are working to a later age. And it's not out of choice.
  • Health care costs are bankrupting families across the country.
As the list above shows, workers still need someone fighting for them. There is strength in numbers.

How did we get all these rights which some want to take for granted and/or dismiss? Some want to forget. Some can't remember. Some just don't know. It was unions! The private sector and the all-knowing market didn't have our best interests in mind and develop these rights for us. Workers stood up and demanded respect.

Citizens that feel unions are overcompensated not only have their facts wrong, they are fighting against their own economic interests. Why would someone think that by ending collective bargaining and workers' representation it would benefit all workers? When you take away labor rights and bargaining leverage, that is a loss. No worker gains from such.

Labor's battles have accomplished gains for all workers.
  • Minimum wage
  • Workers compensation
  • Overtime
  • Employer-provided health care
  • 40-hour work week
  • 8-hour day
  • Unemployment insurance
When workers fight with other workers, guess who loses? That's right - workers. Stop belittling and fighting with workers, just like yourself, who only want to earn a dignified living. [If you're bellowing how well-paid public workers are -- please -- read the recently released studies which completely dispel this myth. The average Wisconsin public worker earns $45,000 and has 17 years of experience. The average retiree has a pension of only $19,000.] Let's start supporting the bottom and middle, rather than beating each other up to the benefit of the uber wealthy.

Tell the rich to pay their fair share. The richest in America have seen explosive growth in income over the past few decades. They didn't do this through magic. They did it by dividing us against each other. They did it by usurping our rightful gains - earned through our productivity - into their own compensation. This is a direct result of campaign finance and our pay-to-play democracy. As corporations have bought more courts, state houses, oversight committees, and such, they have seen humongous legal and fiscal gains. As they've controlled more of the institutions of our society, they have concentrated all the economic gains into a select few hands.

Workers need to be fighting to hold onto what they've earned. We must stop fighting each other. We all (the bottom 99%) need to start demanding that we get more compensation for our productivity. The richest have made out like bandits, while we've all been battling each other over the crumbs. Let's stop beating each other up and join in solidarity to develop policies that help share prosperity. No longer can we allow policies that solidify winners (the top1%) whilst merely hoping something trickles down to the rest of us.

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