"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from a speech on March 18, 1968 in support of the sanitation workers strike in Memphis. He was murdered less than three weeks later in that same city. Welcome to Sunday Morning Coffee the Labor Day Edition. Thanks for coming by. Rather then spend today talking about "45" and his cruelty that is exhibited daily and upheld by those who cling to the "Party of Me". I'm going to spend our time focused on labor and why millions of Americans, today, are a flat tire away from financial chaos and better yet, what we can do about it.
It's Not About Mattress Sales
If you get weekends off, a lunch break, a paid vacation, work an eight hour day, receive overtime wages, pay into or receive social security you can thank the labor unions and the U.S. labor movement. Many of us forget that fact and today pay more attention to the deals at the mattress store and the dogs on the grill.
That's really sad and because so many are focused on "me" rather than "we" America has found itself adrift when it comes to our quality of life due to the politics of greed.
Let's return to that day in Memphis as Dr. King spoke about work and labor saying to the men and women who were supporting the strike of the garbage collectors:
"You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this. One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage, in the ﬁnal analysis, is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity."
And this: "But you are doing another thing. You are reminding, not only Memphis, but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages."
Today our situation is just as it was in Memphis fifty-one years ago. The wealthy individuals and corporations continue to pay little or nothing in taxes and, by law, they have shifted that responsibility on to the backs of working families. The "tax break" of less than a thousand dollars a year you received through the 2017 Jobs and Tax Act was crumbs from the table of your master and has been eaten up by higher costs that can be traced back to the current trade war with everybody.
You know that to be true.
The wealth gap in the United States is today the highest it has been for nearly 100 years. The median U.S. household wealth fell between 1983 and 2016 from $80,000 to $78,100 while the average wealth of the top 1 percent of households more than doubled, from $10.6 million to $26.4 million.
That problem was put on steroids with the 2017 tax cuts which will make income inequality even more extreme -- with 82.8 percent of the gains from those tax cuts going to the top 1 percent by 2027.
How Did We Get Here?
First of all, American corporations fell into line with the idea that it was wasteful for them to spend any time or money upholding their workers or their communities. Economist Milton Friedman cooked up the, now accepted but flawed, theory that corporations had only one duty and that was to enrich the standing of their shareholders. The rest be damned.
He said that as corporations flourish the riches will naturally take care of the employees and the community. However Friedman failed to take into consideration...greed. And it is that greed, fueled by tax and social policies enacted by GOP controlled legislators, that has led us to where we are today: Broke and hungry.
At the same time the constant drumbeat of demonizing labor has resulted in fewer workers represented by unions. It's no coincidence that the vast amount of factory jobs have moved from northern states to anti-union southern states.
Last year union participation in the United States fell once again. Only 10.5% of wage and salary workers belong to a union. In 1983, the first year the Bureau of Labor Statistics measured labor participation, 20.1% of workers or 17.7 million people were unionized.
You have been duped by very powerful anti-worker voices and the impact on America has been chilling.
Why does your Republican legislator and the business groups who serve as their master despise unions? It's simple...greed. The average union worker makes $200 more each week than the non-union worker. For working families that is an extra $10,400 a year. That increase in wages would go a long way toward calming the fears of Moms and Dads who struggle to pay the rent, put food on the table, pay for child care and it would allow thousands to be freed from government assistance programs they now receive.
But the GOP says why should business "suffer"? Better it is for taxation, which they are not paying, feed, cloth and care for families.
So much for the dignity of work.
What We Must Do
Here is a Working for Working Families checklist:
- Repeal Right to Work
Currently, in the U.S., there are 27 "Right to Work" states...which really means "Right to Fire" and it has been a stranglehold on labor unions. Workers don't have to pay for the representation and benefits they receive from the union...and employers find it easier to fire people for no cause. That is not a value you or I should uphold and it is why I will work to repeal this draconian law in Iowa.
- Tax Equity
Pro-business groups have lobbied for and received massive tax cuts while shifting those taxes on to working families. They maintain, without offering any credible evidence, that businesses will not locate in Iowa because, on paper, we show a higher corporate tax rate than neighboring states. That is pure bull. They know that any corporation that is currently paying higher tax rates needs to fire their accountant...not burden working families. But your Iowa GOP controlled government was all to happy to comply.
- Raise the Wage
Those same pro-business groups have fought and paid out thousands of dollars to Republican legislators who once demanded local control to deny local control and pass laws that cities and counties can not raise their wages above the poverty rate of $7.25 an hour. They say, "Let the market decide" and "Your burger will cost ten bucks". The market (business) has decided and working families find themselves holding down two or three jobs just to pay the ever increasing cost of living. That, in the end, leaves us with more kids in poverty than ever before. Shameful.
- End The Child Care Crisis
Working families today are faced with higher child care costs along with fewer child care options. It is a drain on our economy and our overall mental health. Moms and Dads struggle to pay for child care and some simply leave the work force. Those that stay are forced to find child care they can afford which, sadly, can end in tragedy as we've seen time and time again. When, and if, they find acceptable child care options parents are driving long distances to centers that will accept their kids. Iowa must raise the eligibility level for child care assistance. If Iowa were to alter our state funded child care assistance program and increase the eligibility from the current ceiling of $37,337 for a family of four to 200% of the federal poverty level or $51,500 it would do a number of things from increasing productivity, assuage the anxiety of working families and create a safe harbor for Iowa's kids.
All of these things will cost money. Money your Iowa Republican controlled legislature says we can not afford. Yet it seems Iowa can afford to spend millions of dollars in fines to pay men and women who have been sexually harassed or wrongly terminated. Iowa can shovel millions of dollars into a for-profit health care system that, by all accounts, is failing to deliver quality health care to our most vulnerable families.
Those are not the Iowa values we should accept. It's time to put working families...first.
Whoa...sorry for the long Labor Day piece but these are things that I believe to my core.
When my grandfather traveled through out the Midwest organizing labor groups on behalf of the Congress of Industrial Organizations working families were in tough times. Pay and benefits sucked and working families ralled and supported the labor movement. It wasn't easy. My mother told tales of hiding in their basement as gun-shots rang out hitting their home. My grandfather, on more than one occasion, came home with his face bloodied from confronting the goons hired by business to bust the union.
I fear we are at that point again and workers must unite and select champions who will fight like hell for them even against staggering odds.
This week, in honor of my grandfather, working families and the people who understand that we need change, I will announce my candidacy for the Iowa State Senate. This is not something I have lightly considered. It will put great pressure on my family and my business but if we are to turn the direction of this state and nation toward a more just society that honors the labor that brought us Labor Day...I'm in.
Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful Labor Day Holiday and...we just might meet up later this evening at FlashDine DSM.