Nel's New Day

September 4, 2017

DDT, GOP Oppose Labor on Labor Day

Filed under: Unions — trp2011 @ 7:37 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Labor Day to most people is a time to shop and barbeque, but it has a dark foundation. In 1894, Pullman employees went on strike to increase wages. President Grover Cleveland sent in federal troops to break the strike, and the riots became one of the bloodiest events in U.S. labor history with 30 deaths. Congress soon declared a federal Labor Day holiday. Oregon had been the first state to celebrate Labor Day as a holiday in 1887. Thirty states followed suit before the creation of the federal holiday in 1894. Holidays were hard won from 37,000 strikes in the last part of the 1800s and 800 killings of workers, mostly by state security forces or the military, between 1870 and 1914.

Five years ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), then vice-presidential candidate, declared that Labor Day celebrated business management and CEOs because business owners were the only Americans working hard and taking risks to make “this country grow.” He completely ignored the federal statement that Labor Day is “a creation of the labor movement and dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers,” a “yearly national tribute” to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and wellbeing of our country.”

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants to “make America great again” by cheating workers.  His Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, has shown great disdain for salaried workers, those who are not paid hourly, when he prepared to stop overtime for employees making over $23,660, a figure set by President Gerald Ford and never adjusted for inflation. The rule for overtime under $47,476 covers one-third of full-time salaried workers in the nation, far fewer than the 50 percent covered by Ford. Some people making just below the $47,476 got raises so that their employers wouldn’t need to pay the overtime; now employers can drop these salaries. Acosta called for public comments on the higher amount in July, the first step to eliminating it.

Impacted by this change would be up to 12.5 million which includes 6.4 million women, 4.2 million parents (and, by extension, 7.3 million children), 1.5 million African Americans, 2.0 million Latinos and 4.5 million millennials. White people voting for DDT will suffer from this change. States supporting DDT tend to be poorer, places where salaried, white-collar workers are likely to earn below the $47,476 than in richer states. In West Virginia, the state with the worst economy in the nation, 30.7 percent of salaried workers will lose overtime pay if Acosta rescinds the rule. Other DDT states punished by the change include Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  The $47,476 amount represents the 40th percentile of salaries in the Southeast, the lowest-paying region in the United States. With the old rule, people making $24,000 without overtime are getting $6.60 an hour if their employee makes them work 70 hours a week.

DDT is spending his first Labor Day in the White House after average working people put him there in an anti-establishment rage. On Election Day, the typical U.S. household was worth 14 percent less than in 1984. The wealthiest one percent owned more than the bottom 90 percent. Last year’s bonus for Wall Street was bigger than annual wages of all 3.3 million Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The reason given for people now making less than their parents, having less economic security than their parents, the two-thirds who live paycheck to paycheck, and the widening gap in life expectancy between affluent and everyone else has been attributed to digital technology and globalization. But these problems have been paralleled by the shrinking of unions with only 6.4 percent of private sector workers in a union—a decline of almost two-thirds since the late 1970s. Top executives at big companies now make 300 times that of average workers, compared to only 20 times more in the 1980s. Workers in other advanced economies don’t face the economic problems in the U.S. Instead of having universal health care, affordable college, job retraining, public transportation, and higher taxes for the wealthy, however, U.S. workers kept dropping farther and farther behind.

Seventy-six percent of the population think that government is operated by a few big interests, compared to the 60 percent of people in 1964 who thought government was “run for the benefit of all the people.” Then, most people said they had a “great deal of confidence” in the nation’s major companies, banks, and financial institutions; now only ten percent has that confidence. DDT makes the problem much worse with undermining health care, backing off from fair pay, and proposed tax cuts for big corporations and rich people.

Across the country, the mis-named “right to work,” which prohibits union security agreements between companies and workers’ unions, is law in 29 states. Supporters of this law touts the “freedom” of workers to not join unions, but the law actually gives employers the “freedom” to pay lower wages and provide far fewer benefits. Any person who supports “right to work” should be asked how workers are better off. Workers in these states make $1,558 less than workers in a union state.

Right to work was developed to keep low-paid Jim Crow labor in the South and fight what “Christians” saw as the Jewish conspiracy. Leader in the movement Vance Muse of the Christian American Association (CAA) was “a white supremacist, an anti-Semite, and a Communist-baiter, a man who beat on labor unions not on behalf of working people, as he said, but because he was paid to do so,” according to Muse’s grandson. On Labor Day 1941, Dallas Morning News editorial writer William Ruggles called for a constitutional amendment to block the closed, or union shop and came up with the name “right to work.” Ruggles joined forces with Muse, Texas lumberman John Henry Kirby, and Northern anti-New Deal industrialists and financiers, including Alfred P. Sloan and the du Pont brothers, using racist reasons to win. In Arkansas, the right-to-work campaign argued that without it, “white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes . . . whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.” In 1944, Arkansas and Florida became the first right-to-work states through rampant election fraud and the refusal to allow blacks to vote.

In the 21st century, right wing activists are campaigning against progressive politicians by eliminating public sector unions. State Policy Network (SPN), with 66 state-based thinktanks in all 50 states, openly determine to remove funding from these unions under the guise of “labor reform” through an $80 million campaign against the 35-percent union membership in the public sector.

Scott Walker’s Wisconsin took collective bargaining from public sector unions in 2010, and Iowa and Indiana followed its lead. Another 15 states have introduced SPN-written legislation. Michigan, long a union state, passed a right-to-work law in 2013.

DDT has not been good for jobs, despite his campaign promises of 25 million jobs in ten years with 4 percent GDP growth. Candidate Trump also promised that he would produce 25 million jobs in 10 years with four percent GDP growth. Thus far, job growth since his inauguration is 15 percent below the same months for last year, and his GDP may be three percent although Hurricane Harvey may reduce it. Last week, he dropped his GDP estimate to three percent and halved job growth to “12 million new jobs.”  Last week, before news of job growth lagging for the month of August, he went back on that promise by claiming that if he can sustain 3 percent growth it will result in “12 million new jobs.” During his two terms Bill Clinton created 21 million new jobs, and Barack Obama managed 14.1 million jobs starting with the year after the loss from George W. Bush’s recession.

DDT celebrated his first Labor Day by firing 800,000 workers. He will end DACA, the program that grants work permits to undocumented workers brought to the U.S. involuntarily as children. Republican legislators have opposed this decision, and they now have a chance to reverse DDT’s destruction of millions of lives. To DDT, the undocumented people are garbage because they won’t be voting for him in 2020.

In 1893, Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor, wrote:

“What does labor want? We want more school houses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more constant work and less crime; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revege; in fact more of the opportunities to cultivate our better nature.”

Sixty percent of people in the U.S. view unions favorably, a 25 percent increase since 2015. What have unions done for people in the United States? They fought against child labor, discrimination in hiring, and sweatshops. They strengthened public education and founded Social Security and Medicare. They built the nation’s infrastructure of highways and bridges and airports. Unions fought for 40-hour work week, worker safety, paid vacation time, health and retirement benefits, sick leave, overtime pay, sick leave, right to breaks, minimum wage, workers’ compensation, higher wages, and more. If you have any of these benefits, thank a union. If you don’t, thank DDT and the GOP.

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