Nothing scares a conservative like a worker willing to hold a sign
As we approach Labor Day, I feel obligated to make a couple of points about the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
The first was a demand of the March for a “A national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living.” At the time that was at least $2.00. Adjusted for inflation, that would $15.27 today, even more than what the Fight for Fifteen movement is demanding.
The second fact is that organized labor played a key role in organizing that historic day. This fact was recognized by the organizers of the 50th anniversary event who included several leaders of America’s great unions, as not one Republican accepted an invitation to speak. (The GOP used this absence to suggest the event was partisan, when it actually pointed out how only one of our major political parties still concerns itself with civil rights.)
Organized labor is the backbone that grew the middle class.
It was there as the civil rights movement reshaped America, and it is there today as we attempt to get more than 11 million undocumented workers out of the shadows and organized.
And right now, we need labor more than we have since the last depression Republicans got us into for one simple reason: declining wages
Earning less while working more is the defining economic crisis of our lifetimes. In the past few years, we’ve seen record low wages as a share of GDP even as corporations enjoy record high profits.
In Michigan, not only are wages not growing but poverty wages are increasing.
The Michigan League for Public Policy released its Labor Day report today. The report shows Michigan increased the number of workers earning a poverty wage.
Those are workers earning a wage that can’t lift a family of four out of poverty. (The poverty rate for a family of four is $23,550 a year, or roughly $11.31 an hour for a fulltime worker.) The number increased from 25% to 28.5% over the past thirty years. Though that’s a relatively small increase, most states saw a drastic decrease in poverty wages.
There are three factors that can work to increase wages: demand, government and organized labor.
With millions still out of work from the financial crisis and most of the gains in the economy horded by corporations or sucked up by investors, demand isn’t going to cut it.
Then it’s on the government to raise the minimum wage, which would likely cut the deficit as more working families could move to get off government aid. But the Republicans in Congress would rather speak at a civil rights rally than do that. In Michigan, our governor the Republicans he serves chose to pass legislation designed to bust unions and drive down wages.
So it’s up to labor.
Though the percentage of those in unions has shrunk nearly in an exact parallel with the decrease of wagers, there is good news. Working people are organizing against low wages and conservative overreach. The odds over overcoming decades of a conservative conspiracy to create income inequality are great. But they’re nothing compared to what those marchers faced fifty years ago.
[Image via Detroit 15.]