A labor force no longer respected

Published 10:31 am Thursday, September 1, 2016

The electorate is so fired up this election because people aren’t feeling the recovery from the Great Recession. Folks are so fired up that Socialist Bernie Sanders was almost a nominee and novice Donald Trump actually is a nominee for president. So why are people not feeling any recovery?

On paper, President Obama’s efforts have been paying off. As economically broken as we were when Obama took office, his efforts have been extraordinary, especially since the Republican Party has been fighting tooth and nail to render anything Obama tries a failure since Day 1.

I hear lot of criticism because it’s taken so long for Obama to get us back where we need to be. They say this recovery from recession is the longest ever. Well this recession was the strongest ever recession, rivaling the Great Depression in severity. It took FDR over a decade to drag us out of the depression and while he had to battle conservatives, too, at least he wasn’t engaged in open warfare with them from Day 1.

Let’s take a look at why folks are so upset. Wages for most working folks are way down and income inequality is greater then ever. The economic situation in the United States is unfair and people know it.

Bernie and Donald both acknowledged the system wasn’t working for most people. Bernie has been railing against the status quo for decades, but had to run for president to be heard outside Vermont. Trump knew people were upset and just wanted to flip the system upside down until he discovered it would hurt his ability to do what he wanted to do.

I read about an interesting study by the Economic Policy Institute that says wages, even for non-union workers, have declined significantly since 1979 as labor unions declined.

Especially in the south, unions are looked down on these days.

Having unions keep employers honest and fair with employees, kept wages high, and provided benefits that workers need to be independent. That prodded non-union employers to be more honest and fair to their workers in order to keep the best people.

Let’s not forget that labor unions brought us the 40-hour work week, medical leave, vacation time, health insurance and retirement systems, plus decent pay for doing good job.

Since the ‘70s, unions have been declining, giving employers more freedom to treat workers shabbily.

And they have. Sure, some employers respect their workers and treat them right. But many do not. That’s why employees can barely make it today when 50 years ago the salaries for those jobs could comfortably support families.

And that has also meant that company CEOs can make millions while workers struggle from week to week. And companies make what oil companies were once vilified for – windfall profits.

The rich get richer and the middle class gets poorer.

The problem with our economy is not because China, et. al. doesn’t play fair; it is because greedy employers simply rip off their workers for higher profit margins.

Labor unions started in the late 1800s and their existence built the middle class.

We have Labor Day to celebrate what unions have done for workers and for our way of life.

Income inequality and poorer workers have happened because labor is no longer respected – cogs in a machine.

This Labor Day weekend remember why we’ve fallen so far – workers are no longer respected. We’re still waiting for the trickle-down economy to work, but that as George H.W Bush said in 1980, is voodoo economics. It hasn’t worked and it never will.


Keith Hoggard is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at keith.hoggard@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.