by Bud Meyers, published March 15, 2015
For decades the top 0.01% (and their political allies) have been winning the war on working-class Americans (meaning, about 92.2% of the labor force). One particular political party always wants to cut government agencies and programs that protect workers’ health, safety and welfare — such as workers’ wages, workers’ pensions, workers’ voting rights and workers’ labor unions (like they do with their so-called “Right to Work” laws).
They would like to defund or eliminate government agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and even the Department of Labor — so that the “job creators” can misclassify workers as “independent contractors”, engage in wage theft, dodge payroll taxes, skirt environmental and safety laws, and cut worker compensation benefits when workers are injured on the job.
So whenever you hear one of these politicians expressing concern about the middle-class and poor, one has to be very misinformed to actually believe them (and if you have a very good sense of humor, you may feel compelled to laugh out loud).Forward Progressives says it best: “What I don’t get are poor and middle-class Americans who call themselves Republicans … but I guess if you holster a gun, hold a Bible and wave a flag, that’s all it takes to fool millions of Americans into thinking you’re on their side — even if almost nothing you support as a political party actually benefits them in any way.”
Watch Bill Maher slam these politicos for their sudden faux concern for the middle-class.
But oddly, average working people have continued to vote against their own best economic interests. While it’s understandable that many voters have a difficult time voting because of voter suppression laws — and that many times, when they do vote, their vote doesn’t count because of gerrymandered districts. But even so, many others continue to vote for those who oppress their wages and worker rights — even after tons of evidence over the years should have convinced them to vote otherwise. Why is that?
The anti-union crusade has been in full swing for many years now, and today it continues. From the New York Times, Unions Suffer Latest Defeat in Midwest With Signing of Wisconsin Measure (March 2015):
“For decades, states across the South, Great Plains and Rocky Mountains enacted policies that prevented organized labor from forcing all workers to pay union dues or fees. But the industrial Midwest resisted. Those days are gone. After a wave of Republican victories across the region in 2010, Indiana and then Michigan enacted so-called right-to-work laws that supporters said strengthened those states economically, but that labor leaders asserted left behind a trail of weakened unions. Now it is Wisconsin’s turn. On Monday, Gov. Scott Walker — who in 2011 succeeded in slashing collective bargaining rights for most public sector workers — signed a bill that makes his state the 25th to adopt the policy and has given new momentum to the business-led movement.”
Note: Only about half of the jobs that Gov. Walker had once promised were ever created. The good news is, the Obama administration won’t allow Gov. Walker to drug test the unemployed anytime soon. The bad news is, people in Wisconsin keep voting for Scott Walker. But why?
And this is from the Economic Policy Institute (March 2015):
“Republicans in Congress are trying to pass a joint resolution of disapproval to prevent the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from updating the rules that govern union elections. Republicans used fast track procedures to pass the resolution in the Senate, and held a hearing on Wednesday to begin moving the resolution through the House. If it were to pass, it would repeal the NLRB’s updates and prevent the agency from ever issuing a similar rule.”
Here is some sage advice to all anti-union and/or non-union workers from someone who has been in a labor union (in the private sector) all of their working life…
Some State governors and members of Congress like to hold up public sector unions — with their higher-than-average wages and generous union benefits — as a prime example of “big government” and “out of control” government spending and budget-busting pensions, because these union workers tend to have better wages and benefits than those who work in the private sector in non-union houses. But it’s not because government workers have been paid too much, but because private sector employees (in non-union houses) have been getting paid too little.
These politicians use this “divide-and-conquer” strategy to get low-paid non-union workers to turn against government employees because union workers have been getting cost-of-living raises over the years with union contracts. Whereas, non-union workers have not, and have seen their wages stagnant (or declining), while also losing any benefits that they may have once had.
They like to characterize union members as mafia thugs, the same way some Hollywood movies sometimes depict them. They call union leaders “bosses”, even though the days of Jimmy Hoffa are long gone. They use their scare tactics to equate organized labor to communism and socialism. They use these type of tactics all the time to make labor organizations look shady and evil. And despite what Governor Scott Walker implied, union members aren’t at all like blood-thirsty terrorists.
The real evil people (the real economic terrorists) are the political and corporate bosses that have been oppressing American workers for the past 30 years by using lies, fear and propaganda to achieve their desired goal — making the poor poorer, just to make the rich richer.
But if a private sector employee chooses NOT to belong to a union, or can’t find work in a union house, they shouldn’t begrudge others that do. Instead, they should support all labor unions (in the public and private sector), unionize their own workplace if they can, and only vote for pro-union politicians.
Higher union wages, just like federal and state minimum wage laws, puts wage pressures on other employers to raise their wages as well. Instead of bashing government employees and unions, the anti-union voters have not only been shooting themselves in the foot, but they have been taking aim.
“Right-to-work” laws guarantee lower wages, not a right to work at a job of your choosing (let alone, for better wages). Doesn’t anyone find it odd that, most of these anti-union states not only have lower wages than other states, but they also use more federal aid — and most of that federal aid (such as food stamps, etc.) comes from revenues mostly generated in pro-union states.
Econbrowser — Some Empirics Regarding Right to Work Laws: “From a state’s economic standpoint, being right-to-work yields little or no gain in employment and real economic growth. Wages and personal income are both lower in right-to-work states, yet proprietors’ income is higher, ceteris paribus. As a result, while right-to-work states may maintain a somewhat better business environment relative to non-right-to-work states, these benefits do not necessarily translate into increased economic verve for the right-to-work states as a whole—there appears to be little “trickle-down” to the largely non-unionized workforce in these states.”
Social Science Research Network (from abstract of study): “A state’s right to prohibit unions from compelling employees to pay dues even when they are covered by a collective bargaining agreement has its basis in the 1947 Taft-Hartley amendments to the National Labor Relations Act (1935) … Employment, wages, and per-capita personal income are all lower on average in right-to-work states.”
Best advice? Join a labor union. Besides the immediate benefits of belonging to a union, over the long run, after busting your butt for 40 or 50 years, you’ll also do much better in retirement as well — because increased wages during your working years will raise your Social Security benefit as well — and you might even have a union pension too!
But with one political party, you might not even have Social Security: “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.” That’s pulled directly from David Koch’s platform back when he ran for President, and little has changed 35 years later. The Kochs stand to pad their billions substantially from the privatization and defunding of Social Security. That’s why they spent so many millions buying a new Congress in 2014.
Whereas others, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, rather than cut this program, has a plan to expand it. If you’ve worked in a non-union house all your life (and especially if you have no other pension plan), then every penny of Social Security you qualify for becomes even more vital in your retirement years. Some politicians, despite what they always say, would rather you have lower wages, no union pension and no Social Security. They believe that only the job creators need “certainty” — while the rest of us should have no certainty at all if we lose our jobs, get seriously ill, become disabled, or get too old to work any longer.
The meager union dues that one pays (to politically support those that advocates for labor AND Social Security) is a very small price to pay for their “certainty”: living wages, better benefits, better job security, a better retirement and a much better life in general. Say for example, if you’d be earning $500 a month more in a union house — wouldn’t $50 a month in union dues be worth the investment? Oh, and if you itemize on your tax returns, union dues can also be tax deductible.
But now Kansas might pass a law allowing employers to not deduct union dues from workers’ paychecks — because some politicians will stop at nothing to make being part of a labor union as onerous as possible for regular working people. And this comes after another Kansas bill would eliminate mediation in labor disputes.
Now pay very close attention: Right-to-work states are also “right-to-fire” states. Employers have a higher bar to meet in a union house: you can be represented in a hearing by a union rep and the employer needs (at the very least) reasonable grounds to terminate you (rather than just waking up on the wrong side of the bed, or deciding to hire his nephew to replace you for less money). If you’re fired for “willful misconduct” (which can be for almost anything the boss says violates company rules), then almost every time you’ll also be denied an unemployment check if you’re wrongfully terminated.
Whereas, in a union house, generally speaking, you go through a process when reprimanded for a company violation, such as tardiness, etc. — and then an employee is subjected to a verbal warning for a first offense, a written warning for a second offense, a day’s suspension without pay for a third offense, and then finally a termination (That was just an example, as various union bylaws within labor contracts and various offenses are treated differently.)
Being a union worker also usually means you have better benefits, such as paid vacation days and sick days, paid holidays, pension contributions, guaranteed hours, time-and-a-half (overtime pay) after 8 hours work within a 24 hour period (or over 40 hours in a week), in-house seniority for job bids and layoffs, healthcare insurance, and many others not mentioned here.
When I once worked in a union Las Vegas hotel, we also got a free meal every day (and non-union houses generally offer the same benefits and pay to be competitive with union houses). And guess what? Not a single one of my ex-employers ever went bankrupt because they over-paid anyone. Instead, they prospered and expanded, and built billion-dollar hotels in China.
So instead of complaining that union workers (public or private) have it better than you, try becoming a union worker yourself so that YOU TOO will earn better wages, have better benefits and better job security — rather than wishing others had it just as bad as you.
It should also be noted that, because non-union workers usually earn less than union workers, non-union workers also contribute much less to the tax base. Meanwhile, this anti-union and anti-worker political party wants to provide tax cuts for their rich friends; but they also say we need to balance the budget. So to accomplish this, they want to cut the safety net and steal workers’ pensions (while allowing the job creators to over-work and under-pay them — both union and non-union alike). From the Washington Post: “The new Republican tax plan is just the Bush tax cuts on steroids“:
The Marco Rubio and Mike Lee tax plan would cut capital gains taxes from 23.8 percent to zero, dividend taxes from 23.8 percent to zero, and the estate tax from 40 percent to zero. That’s a lot of zeroes. Not only that, but it would also cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent, stop taxing overseas earnings, and allow businesses to deduct all their expenses at once. Nobody’s run the numbers yet, but it’s more than safe to say that most of these new tax cuts would go to the top 1 percent. Just think about this. The Tax Policy Center says that getting rid of all investment taxes would, on average, give someone in the middle 40 to 60 percent a $66 tax cut—don’t spend it all in one place!—while the top 1 percent would get $61,891 and the top 0.1 percent would get $401,554. (link to bill)
Sadly, these politicians are fed huge campaign contributions, which are now unlimited, from the top 0.01%. Their only goal is to make sure the wealthy have more while the poor and middle-class have less; they feed their wealthy overlords by starving everyone else. It’s been their economic policy for at least 30 years, and regardless of it’s obvious failures, it’s the only plan they continue to put forward. Guess what? Trickle-down doesn’t.
As it is now, only 20% of American workers earn a middle-class wage — almost everyone else earns a lower-middle-class or a lower-class wage (or is one of the working poor). If the new tax plan were ever passed, America will become another third world nation with only extremely wealthy people and the destitute poor. The middle-class would become non-existent. And the attacks on labor unions is a very big part of the shrinking middle-class’s demise.
Right-to-work laws only guarantees you a right to poverty. So if you vote for this political party, you only have yourself to blame, not labor unions. But it’s unforgivable that you feel that you have to take the rest of us down with you.