Happy Labor Day! Hope that you and yours are enjoying this holiday meant to celebrate the achievements and contributions of the American worker. Unfortunately, too many of us no longer remember what this holiday is meant to commemorate and a disturbing number of us are specifically disdainful of many of our fellow workers, even as we might be a slightly better off version of labor. This holiday was created by Labor Unions and today, Labor Unions are not only at an ebb (as employers have been able to buy their own government influence and the unions themselves succumbed to various unhealthy tendencies), but are disdained by people who have specifically benefited from their work.
No, what’s unimaginable now is that Congress would unanimously offer even an empty gesture of support for workers’ dignity. For the fact is that many of today’s politicians can’t even bring themselves to fake respect for ordinary working Americans.
Consider, for example, how Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, marked Labor Day last year: with a Twitter post declaring “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” Yep, he saw Labor Day as an occasion to honor business owners.
More broadly, consider the ever-widening definition of those whom conservatives consider parasites. Time was when their ire was directed at bums on welfare. But even at the program’s peak, the number of Americans on “welfare” — Aid to Families With Dependent Children — never exceeded about 5 percent of the population. And that program’s far less generous successor, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, reaches less than 2 percent of Americans.
And while the social safety net has been shrinking, employers no longer need to pay their employees fairly — because the social safety net will fill in with food assistance and health care. Two things that most of the right view with disdain, as they cheerlead for these poverty-wage jobs that don’t keep anyone’s head above water. All with the help of the American taxpayer.
Also on the NYT Op-Ed page is Benjamin Sachs arguing for allowing workers to band together for political organizing purposes without a union:
THE financial challenges low- and middle-income Americans face are daunting. But the poor and middle class are in an equally serious, if less well recognized, political predicament: the government has become almost entirely unresponsive to them.
This a profound political failure. A democracy in which government policy responds to the rich and not to the poor or the middle class is a democracy unworthy of the name.
This is familiar, right? This is the basis of much of our criticism of our Delaware Congressional Delegation and even the Governor.
It’s more straightforward than it sounds. The key is that we would make the workplace available as a site for political organization. While the law would continue to protect workers’ right to organize traditional unions, it would also protect workers’ right to organize strictly political ones. Workers would have the right to talk about politics with one another at work, as long as they did so during nonworking time.
Employers would be prohibited from retaliating against their employees who organized politically, and if the workers did form a political union, they would be entitled — as traditional unions are — to use voluntary payroll deductions to finance their activities. But these political unions would be prohibited from collective bargaining, and no worker would ever be required to pay dues to a political union — or to be represented by one — unless she chose to be.
Interesting idea and worthy of some discussion.
Guest workers being exploited is the theme of this piece called Subcontractor Servitude. Starting from the news of Jamaican guest workers in Florida going on strike twice to get their pay and other promises from their employer, we find that so-called job creators are using guest worker law to exploit people they bring here from other countries. Not much of a surprise, but how in heck do you get guest worker visas for people who are cleaning? You actually can get American workers to do this — you just can’t treat them this badly. Our laws shouldn’t make it this easy to get around hiring for a labor pool that is readily available here. It is on thing to make the argument for advanced technical skill, but not for the kind of work that Americans should get first shot at. There is No Way that there aren’t people available to hire to help clean condos, and there is No Way that our labor laws should encourage this kind of thing.
Hope the rain isn’t spoiling any plans for this Labor Day!