Aljazeera America reports that Senator Bernie Sanders and progressive allies in the Senate and House are proposing a new measure to help working Americans. The Workplace Democracy Act would make it easier for employees to unionize. It would also require that employers negotiate with unions within 10 days of a request to negotiate. This measure is a good thing, but it’s more of a political statement than a realistic attempt to change law. Republicans control the House and Senate, and they are very pro-employer. That said, Democrats and Independents like Sanders need to present a new vision for how working people will be treated. This bill along with the Fight for $15 is part of that vision.
P.S. John Nichols of The Nation connects this issue to changes in the TPP and other international agreements that protect the right of workers to form unions.
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos helps us plan our holiday cook outs by presenting food that is produced by union labor. Her shopping list includes many large brand names, which should be easy to find. I would add to this list that we should try to shop at stores that have union employees - not an easy task.
Common Dreams features John Nichols of the Nation who links labor rights to human rights. What is he talking about? Primarily that workers should be allowed the protection common in any democracy: freedom of speech and association. Representative Keith Ellison and John Lewis are sponsoring the Employee Empowerment Act to help workers organize without retaliation. The problem in our current political culture is that this bill has no immediate chance of being debated much less passed into law.
Non-union workers at Market Basket won a battle when their strikes led to the reinstatement of a CEO they respect. However, this victory does not lead to any secure future for the workers. If the CEO they fought for decides to turn on them, they have no recourse in the form of a contract or collective rights. As Kate Aronoff notes, it is a victory, especially in demonstrating the power of any group of workers when they can join together to demand better working conditions.
Finally, Al Jazeera America’s Gregg Levine considers the holiday in light of the Pullman Strike and the recent Market Basket labor victory. He reminds us the President Grover Cleveland first declared Labor Day a holiday during the Pullman Strike. As he concludes, politicians once feared the American working class. Maybe the time is coming when labor will again have that power.
Have a happy Labor Day. Take a minute to think about what we have as working people, what we have lost, and – most importantly – what we should fight for in the future.
Al Jazeera America reports on claims of a Texas employment miracle. While some may be moving ahead in the Lone Star state, construction workers interviewed for this article are working hard for $8-$10 an hour. The state’s governor brags that Texas has an unemployment rate far lower than the national average (national 6.3%; Texas 5.5%). However, the state is producing as many low wage jobs as high paying jobs. It also offers less support for low wage workers, which means they struggle even more to get by. The working poor in Texas live harder lives than workers in New York or California, states that have more progressive labor laws and social safety net services.
Some may say, “A job is a job.” Those people usually have a job or other source of income that gives them the security needed to be glib and unfeeling about others. Across America, low wage workers are struggling to get by. So are middle class workers, who often resent the aid given to low wage workers. All American workers need to remember who the real winners in this society are – the 1% – and ask them to pay for their share of our common needs. The Texas Miracle is just one more example of an American economy that asks more and more of the working poor. That’s not a miracle. It’s a tragedy.