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OP-ED | This Isn’t Just A Vacation Day

by Lindsay Farrell | Sep 1, 2014 5:29am
(9) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Labor, Opinion

Today, Labor Day, many of us will have a day off. We’ll go to the beach, or host a BBQ, and enjoy the end of summer. But it is important to remember that today is not just a day off.

There is a purpose and a history behind the holiday. In 1887 Labor Day was officially established to commemorate the labor movement, and the economic advances of workers and laborers. But today as our economy shifts, many of the advances made by the labor movement are eroding. The Working Families Party was established to combat that. We give workers and their families a voice in our government, and fight for an economy that will work for everyone, not just the rich.

While many of us will have the day off, a growing number of workers will be on the job. Restaurant cooks and servers, retail workers, and grocery store staff, to name just a small segment, will not get the day off. It is a sign of our changing economy, and a prime example of workers losing ground. Our middle class is disappearing and economic inequality is reaching extreme levels. Wages are flat or falling, benefits like paid vacation time and retirement savings opportunities are a luxury instead of the norm, and job security is a thing of the past.

It has always been a struggle for workers to gain respect on the job, particularly for workers who do not have a labor union to help them negotiate. Increasingly state and federal policies are determining the quality of a workplace. And today, a flood of corporate dollars and armies of special interest lobbyists drown out the voices of workers. The result has been predictable: large corporations, and Wall Street banks have gained power, and can frequently defeat common sense legislation that would benefit workers.

That’s where the Working Families Party comes in. We exist to represent working and middle class families and the unemployed: to raise our voices at the Capitol, and advocate for legislation that will have a positive impact on our lives.

And it works. In the past few years we have won some incredible victories. We passed the first statewide paid sick days program, ensuring hundreds of thousands of workers wouldn’t have to choose between their health and their paycheck. We helped Connecticut become the first state to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. We helped lay the groundwork for a public retirement savings program so that every worker has the ability to retire with dignity and security. When workers organize and stand up for themselves, they can win policies that improve their lives, even over the objections of corporate interests.

One of the major reasons for our success on these issues is our unique ability to support candidates, as a political party, who become champions on these issues once elected. The Working Families Party is different than other political parties because it only supports candidates who will stand up for families like ours. It isn’t about personalities or power. It is about values. That is what being an independent political party is all about: our hands aren’t tied by special interests or political bosses. We won’t let anything stand in the way of building a fair and inclusive economy and government.

So today, as you are heading to parades or BBQs, think about how much more we can accomplish for workers. We need to solve the student debt crisis. We need to expand family friendly workplace policies like paid sick days and paid family and medical leave. We need to hold large profitable corporations accountable for poverty wages and shady tax dodging schemes. Then think about how we can accomplish these goals and more. Just as labor unions have amplified workers voices on the job, the Working Families Party amplifies workers voices at the polls. This November, vote on the Working Families Party ballot line and stand up for your values.

Lindsay Farrell is the executive director of the Connecticut Working Families Party.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(9) Comments

posted by: shinningstars122 | September 2, 2014  5:50am

shinningstars122

You folks should check out how the Republican American “commemorated” Labor Day in their editorial pages yesterday…with a piece by D. Dowd Muska that was equally offensive as it was factual wrong.

Here are some things to consider where the labor movement is in 2014.

Even though US worker productivity has increased by 23 % since 2000. As many readers will already know if have a work smart phone you are expected to answer emails, texts, and phone calls after hours; work that generally we are not being paid for, which clearly increases worker productivity at the employer’s benefit.

To add insult to injury worker’s wages have fallen to record lows as a share of American GDP, while over this same 50 year period corporate profits have soared.

If you wonder why Millennials, as well as many Baby Boomers, are not happy consider this.Since 2007 more than 3 million more part times have been created. Many Americans now work two or more jobs to just get by.Many of these new jobs are in the service industries and these companies use the ” Just In Time” scheduling software. This software, which squeezes the most productivity and profit out of a given shift, wrecks havoc on employees and their families as they will not even know what their next week work schedule will be until the Sunday or Monday of that very week.

A well documented example of these abuses is by Starbucks. If you want to work 32 hours a week you have to be available 70% of the time the shop you work in is open. Many are open from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM seven days a week so that means you need to be ” available”  at least 10.5 hours a day seven days a week. Try going to college or church or even shuffling the kids to football practice with those types of employment terms.

Ms. Farrell prepare your self for the onslaught of hole in the sand defenders of capitalism,corporatism, and the plutocracy to attack your well presented piece.

To many of them reversing the gains of American labor over the last first 50 years is an obsession and they won’t stop until folks like Tom Foley and the Koch brothers are controlling every aspect of our lives.

I am sure the majority of those folks had yesterday off too.

posted by: Joebigjoe | September 2, 2014  9:52am

SS122, you had a very interesting piece that educated me (Starbucks thing is beyond unacceptable to me) until you felt the need to follow the party line and mention Koch brothers.

I’m not going to make this a referendum on their beliefs but as an American I would rather that they and other Americans, even those I dont agree with, use their influence as opposed to supporting George Soros who isnt even an American and would be arrested in certain countries for what he did to their currency in the name of greed.

posted by: wmwallace | September 2, 2014  1:18pm

Just another arm of the democratic party. A way to get another line on the ballot in November.

I believe labor day is for all of those who work to make this country a better place to live. It is not about unions, but people.

posted by: shinningstars122 | September 3, 2014  5:56am

shinningstars122

@JoeBigJoe following the party line?

That statement is laughable Joe.

Ignorance is bliss buddy.

I could continue to throw up labor fact after labor fact but you would still blame “government” for the ills on our economy.

You clearly do not under stand the depth and seriousness of the Citizens United ruling or the proliferation of dark money non- profits used by both parties and must often by large corporations and special interest groups.

Democracy in our country has become a buyers club and we have not been invited nor could we afford to participate.

If you think that is partisan rhetoric you are deeply ill informed as well as denying the facts about the new political realities.

This attitude is the biggest reason Progressives and Libertarians can never work together against these forces.

You all want to continue to empower the free mark to “fix” every thing.

No thanks John Galt.

posted by: ABC | September 3, 2014  9:14am

Shiner,

Wages have gone down while profits have soared over 50 years.

50 years ago, how many laborers were the direct or indirect recipients of stock in their company?

Through pension fund management, profit-sharing programs, 401Ks, stock plans, do you think the level of broad labor partcipation in the equity markets has gone down - or risen dramatically in the past 50 years?

Today how much of the U.S. equity market is now owned by Labor vs 50 years ago?  What is the $ value of that equity and why don’t you count stock equity value when you compare other forms of worker compensation?

The fact is that most organized “laborers” who work for large companies also have a piece of the equity.  They are the owners.  When their company does well, the evil fat cats do well.  But so do your poor, powerless, down-trodden, laborers. 

Ever wonder why your tired old slogans from the turn of LAST century don’t resonate anymore?  Aren’t you frustrated that organized labor, outside of the coddled public service class, has rejected your arguments and is down to a pathetic 11% of all workers?

Its because of the changes in the balance of wealth that your movement agitated for.  Guess what?  You won. 

But now because your house is worth only $200K instead of the $350K that you had “depended” on, and now you may have to retire at age 65 instead of 56 like your cousin the cop, and now that you have to actually pay a bit more in health ins. in exchange for living 20 years longer in good health - well now you are “not happy”.  Boo hoo.

posted by: Joebigjoe | September 3, 2014  11:00am

No Shining Stars I am not happy with the money in politics. It stinks!!

However, I also say that if we are going to destroy ourselves then let’s do it ourselves, with our own hard working people. Not foreigners here illegally, not people that live off the government dole, not with union dues unless people can opt in or out, and definitely not with non-Americans like Soros and foreign money. Thats where I draw the line, but to reiterate it all stinks.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | September 3, 2014  4:54pm

ABC - perhaps you might want to look at a few charts produced by the Congressional Budget Office regarding inequality. Also, read the accompanying article.

posted by: shinningstars122 | September 3, 2014  9:39pm

shinningstars122

@ABC spoken like a true plutocratic stooge.

You argument about how much the middle class owns a piece, and has prospered, off the stock market is ludicrous.

95% of income gains since the Great Recession have gone to the top 1%.

Union membership peaked in 1954 at 35% in our country so stop whining about that being the problem.

What you are missing right now is that over the last 40 years wage growth has been flat, and now it takes 2 FT incomes, to maintain a middle class existence, and even with that too many families are living check to check.

8 out of 10 college graduates do not have a job now when they graduate.

Plus the average graduate leaves school with $27,000 in student loan debt.

Many with 50K or more.

Working for $10 an hour will not get you to the middle class or having crushing debt at 23 years old either.

Corporate America dissolved the industrial based economy in our country and they, and you,  blame less than 35% of the total US workforce for that?

Talk about a cop out.

Politicians sold out the middle class decades ago and government has been the ” catcher in the rye ever since.

Folks like you loathe that fact but you fail to hold who was, and still is, actually responsible.

We are at another critical point in which we, as a society, need to to have economic justice and tax fairness because that is what will grow the middle class.

Not the corporate Ponzi scheme of trickle down economics and inversion and whatever wacko tax loop hole they can use to get out of paying taxes or even actually hiring FT workers.

If you think folks can trust the ” best” intentions of these corporation well keep eating up their 24/7 narrative of them being the victim of the US economic system.

posted by: Joebigjoe | September 4, 2014  7:16am

SS, for purposes of my reply I’m just going to accept that what you presented as your facts are accurate.

Let’s look at what has changed over the last 40-50 years.

1) Nixon took us off the gold standard so its been funny money ever since.

2) Global markets have opened up to sell to, but also because of better transportation and better supply chains, companies want to be and can be closer to their customers.

3) Regulations and taxes on businesses in this country have reached the level of insanity. Therefore, it becomes more compelling to do what you can out of this country. Just look at how it would be impossible to build a single iPad in this country due to regulations but if you could it would cost 5X.

4) We opened the borders which allowed more people to come in and do work that can only be done here but for less money. At some point the people that used to do those jobs said “I dont need to fight for that lousy job, as I make more getting paid by the government.”

5) No one has had the courage to try to even the playing field with tariffs and now its too late because if we want something as a government we are held hostage by the Chinese owning so much of our debt and our desire for them to buy more of it.