Tag Archives: minimum wage

Celebrating the Much Despised Labor Day

5 Sep

Labor DaySince the Reagan era, we seem to have surrendered to what I would term an irrational, inexorable disdain for the laborer. Labor Day seems to have become a hollow holiday for some without a sense of history. Let us remember why it is important to celebrate and elevate the laborer. This is a time for us to reflect and look at how we value human beings; how we look at and address income disparities; how we address and look at people who are over-employed!

Yes, over-employed, those who have to work more than one job and still remain in poverty, while CEOs and those who enjoy being in the top echelon of corporations and organizations earn exponentially more than those who actually allow those organizations to sustain themselves. According to the Economic Policy Institute and Fortune, many top executives make over 300 times that of their employees, many of whom live at or below the poverty line. Yes, CEOs earn 20 times more than they did 20 years ago and 30 times more than they did 30 years ago. In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, “In between 1978 and 2014, inflation adjusted CEO pay increased by 1000%,” while the typical worker has only seen a possible 11% increase in that same time frame. That 11% means workers are now either earning the same as they earned in 1978 or even less, allowing executives to earn so much money that it is next to impossible to chart.

We saw the architecture of this with Ronald Reagan, who did his best to bust unions. You remember the union, the reason why we have a little something called a “weekend,” and an 8 hour workday, and protections against the exploitation of children workers. Unions: the reason  we hope to never witness another tragedy like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company.

Just a little history about Labor Day. Labor Day was started in 1882 by labor unions, but it would be many more years before it would be recognized as a Federal Holiday. Oregon was the first state to recognize and honor Labor Day in 1887.  Finally in 1894, under the Cleveland administration, it became a national holiday on the first Monday in September.  Congress passed it unanimously, a very rare event indeed. Today we have an opportunity to reflect on why we need to celebrate the laborer and to look at the maldistribution of wealth in the United States. It’s particularly important to note how Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan show nothing but contempt, disdain, and even disgust for the laborer.

Many of us have been working in movements to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. This would be just a very small move forward and still does not address a living wage. Sadly, the common theme from Trump and Ryan and their ilk — remember, they aren’t as different as they’d like you to believe —  has been nothing less than hostile. They all seem to subscribe to the false notion of a meritocracy. Our current Republican controlled House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted against the equal pay act — the same people who want to throw out the Affordable Care Act and witness millions suddenly going without health care. All the while ALL of those in our congress have Cadillac insurance packages and earn a minimum of $174,000. Yes, you read that number correctly. Please watch this very short video of the maldistribution of wealth in the United States.

Labor Day isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend or a chance to grill an extra burger before autumn sets in. It’s a chance to reflect on the work that is done at all levels of our society and the value of all that labor. It’s a chance to celebrate the collaboration that makes work better and working conditions safer. In the words of the great Joe Hill (as sung by Billy Bragg)

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union.

Happy Labor Day to all who have to work today and that have no pension, no health benefits, and are at the poverty line. We must stand in solidarity!

Labor Day 2015: Much Despised by the GOP

7 Sep

Labor Day 2015Labor Day was started in 1882 by labor unions, but it would be many more years before it would be recognized as a Federal Holiday. Oregon was the first state to recognize and honor Labor Day in 1887.  Finally in 1894, it became a national holiday on the first Monday in September under the Cleveland Administration.  Congress passed it unanimously, a very rare event indeed. Today we have an opportunity to reflect on why we need to celebrate the laborer and to look at the maldistribution of wealth in the United States. It’s particularly important to note how all of the GOP presidential candidates show nothing but contempt, disdain, and even disgust for the laborer.

Reflecting back, the United States can proudly celebrate the influence of its labor unions and how they have helped to protect the too often marginalized and voiceless.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire proved there was still a great deal of work to be accomplished by the labor movement.  Labor Unions also worked to protect children and helped to establish an eight hour work day, fair wage laws, and breaks for safety and meals — that whole notion of having a weekend.

Sadly, America seems to be losing its appreciation of Labor Unions while privileging profit over people.  President Clinton left a nasty legacy called NAFTA and perpetuated a culture of vilifying those in poverty.

Many of us have been working in movements to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. This would be just a very small movement forward and still does not address a living wage. Sadly, the common theme from all of the GOP candidates has been nothing less than hostile, as they all seem to subscribe to the false notion of a meritocracy.

We hear Republicans bleat about jobs and the economy but do nothing, while at the state level we see a nefarious and dangerous Scott Walker are dismantling unions and isolating workers from the political process.  We have seen Walker, Christie, Kasich, and Jindal bash and target teachers and unions, rather than looking at how do we redistribute wealth in an equitable way that helps to lift people out of poverty. Please take a look at this short video on the distribution of wealth; this is what we should desperately focus on and how every GOP candidate is on the wrong side of history here.

Labor Day isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend or a chance to grill an extra hot dog before autumn sets in. It’s a chance to reflect on the work that is done at all levels of our society and the value of all that labor. It’s a chance to celebrate the collaboration that makes work better and working conditions safer. In the words of the great Joe Hill (as sung by Billy Bragg, thanks to my husband for the choice of Bragg):

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union.

Happy Labor Day to all of our brothers and sisters that have to work today and that have no pension, no health benefits, and are at the poverty line.

Hero of the Week Award, February 28: Gov. Dan Malloy of Connecticut

28 Feb
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Far too often these days well-meaning people avoid calling out hard truths (interrupting oppressions) in the name of comity or “bipartisanship.” This week’s Hero refused to allow shallow expectations to stop bold, necessary action.

Connecticut governor Dan Malloy (D) was one of the many governors attending the meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington, DC this week. One part of the meeting was a conversation with President Obama. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (R), notorious for his spotty attendance at these meetings over the years, rushed from the room as soon as the President left to attack him in front of waiting reporters.

Saying that “the Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy,” Jindal accused President Obama of “waving the white flag” because he is increasingly relying on executive orders to push forward his agenda — an agenda the American people overwhelmingly voted for and support. He neatly ignored the years of Republican obstruction (which ironically block minimum wage increases at every turn) that force the President to take whatever actions he can to move good policy forward. (Please note, we are not even talking about a Living Wage, but only minimum wage)

Gov. Malloy refused to let Jindal’s bizarre claims stand. After the meeting, he held a brief press conference, calling Jindal’s comments “the most insane statement I’ve ever heard.” He elaborated,

Here’s a guy who didn’t come to any of the meetings except this one today, and has the nerve to pull that stuff on everyone—ten feet from the West Wing. He doesn’t … come to the meetings of the organization, and then he wants to swing for the fences for obviously political reasons. I didn’t mind pushing back.

Bravo, Gov. Malloy! Despite the longstanding tradition of courteous conversation and collaboration when the President addresses the NGA, Jindal tried to make political capital of the moment for his own political agenda. Clearly seeing an opportunity to raise his profile as 2016 GOP hopefuls like Chris Christie are crumbling, Jindal tried to put his personal agenda above actual progress for the people of his country and his state. A bit of judicious truth telling is the perfect comeback.  Thank you, Gov. Malloy for interrupting Jindal’s lies and interrupting his continued oppression of those already targeted.

Bigot of the Week Award: April 26, Steve Kush

26 Apr
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

I get many nominations for Bigot of the Week and have grown accustomed to the ugliness that is included in the stories I read. This week’s winner — courtesy of my friend Jennifer Carey — was so odious, however, that I had to stop reading until I could contain my rage.

Steve Kush executive director of the Bernalillo County Republican Party in New Mexico showed his true colors after a public hearing on raising the minimum wage in the county. When a 19-year-old woman representing Working America testified in favor of the higher wage, Kush tweeted

Nice hat Working America chick but damn you are a radical bitch.

Really?! Where do I even start to unpack all the hate, misogyny (a very big word for our Steve), classism, and ageism? Simply stating her concern for those barely earning a living wage at a public hearing makes her a radical? Using the word “chick” (not to mention his other language)?  Are we back in the 1950s?  Clearly, Kush attended the Clarence Thomas School Charm School, or would that be Charm Free School? As of April 26, Kush has offered no apology and remains isolated in his white, heterosexist, male, privilege — further pulling the GOP down into an abysmal time machine of shame.

Dishonorable mention this week goes to the Boy Scouts of America for adding “clueless” to “homophobic” on their list of Demerit Badges.

no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.

This plan would retain the ban on gay adults serving in any capacity. That means gay youth are being told they’ll be tolerated as long as it’s just a phase. If they don’t grow out of it, out the door they go. The word “alone” at the end of this tepid mini-reversal is also troubling. It would clearly allow individual troops to punish out scouts for “being disruptive” simply for being who they are. In an attempt to look accepting (are they using the GOP’s rebranding experts?), the BSA has crafted a meaningless compromise that makes Don’t Ask Don’t Tell look like civil rights genius. I do wonder when all of these straight scouts, both adult and youth, made the decision to be straight?

Happy Birthday, Shirley Chisholm

30 Nov

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday, Shirley Chisholm. In 1972, Chisholm became the first black woman to run for President of the United States. Given the permanent blemish on American History that was Nixon and Watergate, how sad that our Chisholm did not win. As a young girl, she let the words of another civil/human rights pioneer guide her–the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “don’t let anybody stand in your way.”

Chisholm represented New York’s 12 Congressional District for seven terms. Chisholm was a first generation American, with her father being from Guiana and her mother being from Barbados.  One can only imagine how the current Tea Party would be treating our Shirley Chisholm.  During her bid for the Presidency in 1972, she survived 12 assassination attempts. Chisholm also was known for taking positions against the Vietnam war, minority and women’s issues, and for challenging the Congressional seniority system.  How many politicians today can claim to be “unbossed and unbought?”

Enjoy this video of Chisholm during her run for President. Chisholm also worked on a bill to give workers the right to a minimum wage–not sure our Scott Walker would have liked that! For more information on Shirley Chisholm, click here.

Celebrating Black History Month: February 27

27 Feb

Pioneer for African-Americans and Women

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Shirley Chisholm. In 1972, Chisholm became the first black woman to run for President of the United States. Given the permanent blemish on American History that was Nixon and Watergate, how sad that our Chisholm did not win. Chisholm represented New York’s 12 Congressional District for seven terms. Chisholm was a first generation American, with her father being from Guiana and her mother being from Barbados.  One can only imagine how the current Tea Party would be treating our Shirley Chisholm.  During her big for the Presidency in 1972, she survived 12 assassination attempts. Enjoy this video of Chisholm during her run for President. Chisholm also worked on a bill to give workers the right to a minimum wage–not sure our Scott Walker would have liked that! For more information on Shirley Chisholm, click here.

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