Labor Day: organize!
by Jim Hightower
America's corporate chieftains must love poor people, for they're doing all they can to create millions more of them.
They're knocking down wages, off-shoring everything from manufacturing jobs to high-tech, reducing full-time work to part-time, downsizing our workplaces, busting unions, cutting health care coverage and canceling pensions — while also lobbying in Washington to privatize Social Security, eliminate job safety protections, restrict unemployment benefits, kill job-creating programs and increase corporate control of our elections.
It's said that the poor and the rich will always be among us. But nowhere is it written that the middle-class will always be there. In fact, it is a very recent creation in our society (and an unavailable dream for most people in the world). America's great middle class literally arose with the rise of labor unions and populist political movements in 1800s, finally culminating in democratic economic reforms implemented from the 1930s into the 1960s.
Social Security, wage & hour laws, collective bargaining rights, unemployment compensation, the GI Bill, the interstate highway program, civil rights laws, Medicare, Head Start — and more — provided the national framework necessary to sustain a middle class for the American Majority.
This essential framework was not "given" to us by corporate executives and politicians, indeed, they sputtered, spewed and fought every piece of it tooth and nail. Rather, it came from union-led grassroots movements, organizing for structural change to serve the common good of America's people.
This Labor Day, we see corporate executives and their politicians relentlessly dismantling that framework, piece by piece — and we see the middle class disappearing and poverty rising. But as labor icon Joe Hill said, "Don't mourn, organize." It's time for working families to organize for the common good.
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