Vice President Joe Biden chose the state of Pennsylvania to make his Labor Day speech. Jesse Russell has more:
On a rainy Labor Day Vice President Joe Biden rolled into Pittsburgh for the city’s annual Labor Day parade. Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the event and said for millions of unemployed Americans we aren’t in a recession, but in a depression. Biden said the economic stimulus package passed in February has brought jobs and aid to many of Americans being impacted the most:
[Biden]: I love my Republican colleagues saying, “Biden, why are you pushing the stimulus package, why are you out there spending this money?” Well, I’ll tell you why, there are millions of Americans today who are getting unemployment insurance who wouldn’t get but for that economic recovery act…millions.
Sweeney Ready To Trade Majority Sign-Up For Fast Organizing Elections, Trumka Wants Three Essential Elements – 09/08/09
By Doug Cunningham
On the Employee Free Choice Act outgoing AFL-CIO President John Sweeney now says he could live with the majority sign-up provision being stripped from the bill – IF it’s replaced with fast unionization elections in organizing drives. Sweeney says these snap elections – within 5 to 10 days of worker petitions being submitted – could eliminate employer interference in the workers’ choice. Rich Trumka, the man who is replacing Sweeney as head of the AFL-CIO, told the New York Times labor wants to be sure the Employee Free Choice Act includes three key elements. They are a pr
President Obama On Labor Day: Fired Up And Ready To Go On Healthcare Reform & Employee Free Choice Act – 09/08/09
By Doug Cunningham
Ahead of his health care reform address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, President Obama spoke to the AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati, Ohio Monday.
[Obama]: “It’s time to do what’s right for America’s working families and put aside partisanship, stop sayin’ things that aren’t true, come together as a nation, pass health insurance reform now, this year.”
Obama said unions deserve support for their decades of struggle to improve life for American workers – on everything from health care reform to the eight hour day to good wages, unemployment compensation, social security, pensions, paid vacations and more.
Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, says this Labor Day provides an opportunity for progressives to join together to rebuild the economy and reinvigorate the fight for social and economic justice.
Labor Day is a time to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of working people throughout the generations. American workers are among the most productive in the world. Labor unions have been a positive social force that helped to build the American middle class, to improve wages and working conditions, to provide for health care and retirement benefits, and to ensure that the wealth generated by working people is fairly distributed.
But Labor Day 2009 finds the U.S. economy in the worst recession in decades. Bank failures, corporate downsizing, the mortgage crisis and tremendous economic insecurity are signs of the times. The United States has lost more than 6 million jobs, and more than 45 million Americans are without health care.
The economic policies of the Bush administration brought us to where we are today. I would summarize the policies of the Bush administration as the “three D’s”—deregulation, deindustrialization and deunionization.
Conservatives love to attack government regulation, and the Bush administration led the charge. Regulations were slashed and burned; the free market went wild; corporate executives lined their pockets with billions; and the banks, financial institutions, stock market and housing sector crashed. The policies of deregulation led to the economic crisis we are facing today.
Conservatives also love free trade at any expense. Corporations have been given free reign to transcend national boundaries, and to maximize profits at all costs. Plant shutdowns, capital flight and deindustrialization have been the consequence. Large-scale manufacturing in this country, which helped to build our middle class, has virtually disappeared.
Finally, conservatives have attacked unions. High-wage, unionized manufacturing jobs have been replaced by low-wage, nonunion service jobs. Wal-Mart, the largest corporation in the country, is aggressively anti-union. Union density is low, and corporations abuse worker rights with virtual impunity. Our bankrupt labor laws prohibit workers from exercising their most basic and fundamental right to form and join unions.
But in the midst of this crisis, there is opportunity. With the help of labor unions, Barack Obama was elected president as a leader representing hope and change. He is advocating an agenda that supports working people. But he can’t do it alone. Unions are a critical partner to ensure that these dreams of hope and change become a reality.
The battle for the hearts and minds of the people of this country is unfolding. Conservatives are attacking health care reform, corporations are spending millions to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act and nativists are blaming the economic crisis on immigrants. But now is the time for the American labor movement to stand together, to fight for social and economic justice, and to rebuild our economy to lift up all working people.
On this Labor Day, let us work together for health care reform, for the Employee Free Choice Act and for immigration reform. Let us turn the corner, revive our economy and honor and cherish the working men and women who are instrumental in building America’s future.
In his first official Labor Day proclamation, President Obama praised America’s workers and made it clear workers will pull the nation out of its economic crisis and “lead us into a new era of prosperity and progress.”
In the proclamation, Obama says:
Working Americans… have carried the nation through times of challenge and uncertainty and propelled America through eras of peace and prosperity. They have long formed the backbone of our nation’s economy, and they will continue to lead our nation to new heights in the years to come.
Obama is showing his commitment to working people by spending Labor Day at the Cincinnati AFL-CIO’s 23rd Annual Labor Day picnic, the largest event of its kind in the country. In a typical year the picnic draws in 15,000 to 20,000 people. Bill Clinton and Al Gore attended the picnic in 1992.
In his proclamation, the president also praised the union movement for giving ”voice to the aspirations and concerns of millions of men and women.”
By fighting for decent working conditions, as well as fair wages and benefits, organized labor has stood for the rights of everyday Americans. With determination and commitment, labor has advocated for all working families and all have benefited of their struggles.
This Labor Day, as we honor our workers, and we renew our commitment to uphold the American Dream and the founding promise of our nation: in America, we can make of our lives what we will, and all things are possible for all people.
As we celebrate Labor Day, Roger Smith, CEO of American Income Life and National Income Life Insurance Co., reminds us that for America’s economy to grow and flourish, workers must be paid a fair wage and allowed to freely join unions. Smith also serves on the board of the Alliance for Retired Americans and is a consultant to the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
Labor Day 2009 is a good time to reflect on the state of America’s workers. For the millions of workers who are unemployed, underemployed or underpaid, their plight is one of empty pockets.
Nothing instills hope and optimism like the sound of change in your pocket. Nothing is more terrifying and bleak than an empty pocket and no prospect to fill it.
As a young boy living in New York, I knew the despair of empty pockets. To change my situation, I would need to be resourceful because I had no skills and no job.
I sold part of my prized collectio of superhero comic books in Central Park for nickels, dimes and quarters. The sound of change in my pocket gave me a buoyancy and fervor I will never forget. I learned the value of selling my precious resource and I have carried that lesson into the workplace.
As a CEO, I have tremendous empathy for workers who are forced to sell their labor for a pittance. I have an abiding disdain for that practice and its critical role in the destruction of our middle class.
Our nation is in a downward spiral. We are a nation lost in the silence of empty pockets.
I see two ways to correct this descent.
First, give workers the right to sell their most precious resource, their labor, for a fair wage.
The free market as we know it has started a race to the bottom. Over the past 20 years, corporate productivity and profits have continued to skyrocket. Workers’ wages have remained flat and, in terms of real dollars, have decreased. A drop in union membership has adversely affected wages in every sector.
The current wage disparity between workers and the wealthy has had cataclysmic consequences for our communities. How can we continue to sustain an economy where the richest one-tenth of one percent of Americans earned more than the poorest 50 percent?
Congress should pass the Employee Free Choice Act to level the playing field for workers and create a path for workers to bargain their way back to the middle class.
Workers who create the profit should have the ability to share in that profit. On average, a union member earns 20 percent higher wages than a nonunion counterpart. A union contract puts real change into workers’ pockets.
The Employee Free Choice Act guarantees a worker the right to negotiate a contract in a timely manner. This principle should never be compromised.
Second, the more money workers put into their pockets, it seems the more predatory lenders find creative ways to pick those pockets. Workers as consumers need to be protected from unregulated financial products and unscrupulous lenders who strip wealth from working families.
Because of declining wages, workers have been forced to borrow their way into making ends meet. The creation of easy but dirty credit has led to a record number of bankruptcies, home foreclosures and an endless cycle of debt. Predatory and subprime lending have crippled too many working and middle-class families.
I applaud the Obama administration’s efforts to reform financial regulation. The current regulatory rules have defined the Big Banks as “too big to fail,: and have declared workers too “little” to matter.
To date, the Big Banks and the financial industry have received $700 billion directly in rescue funds and another $10 trillion in loan assistance. The same banks that are borrowing money at less than 0.5 percent have the audacity to charge exorbitant overdraft fees, slap unwarranted double-digit increases on credit cards and refuse to cap usury fees.
The Consumer Financial Protection Agency legislation (H.R. 3126) addresses these egregious assaults on consumers. An independent stand-alone agency with the sole mission of protecting consumers provides an upshot of hope for most working Americans.
I am optimistic as both labor law reform and financial regulatory reform wind their way through Congress. I cannot predict the details of final language on either piece of legislation. I do know that we must fight for a result that puts more change in workers’ pockets.
That is the sound of change we can all believe in.