by Ralph Nader, Huffington Post, 8/30/13
For far too many Americans, Labor Day is simply another day off, another store sale and another small parade. The meaning of the holiday has been dulled by both rampant commercialism and public apathy. Where is the passion for elevating the wellbeing of American workers? Shouldn’t Labor Day be a time to gather, contemplate and celebrate more just treatment of all those who toil without proper recognition or compensation?
Labor Day is the ideal time to highlight the hard-fought, historic victories already enjoyed by American workers, and push for long-overdue health and safety measures and increased economic benefits for those left behind by casino capitalism. After all, it was the labor movement in the early 20th century that brought us such advances as the minimum wage, overtime pay, the five-day work week, the banning of child labor and more.
The reality is that big corporations have abandoned American workers by taking jobs and industries to communist and fascist regimes abroad — regimes that oppress their workers and enforce serf-level salaries and hideous working conditions. America’s working men and women have also largely been abandoned by the corporate dominated Republican and Democrat two-party duopoly, whatever their rhetorical differences may be. The federal minimum wage has been allowed to languish far behind inflation as corporate bosses’ pay skyrockets. The gap between worker salaries and CEO pay widens, even as worker productivity rises. Corporate CEO’s in America make approximately 340 times more than that of the average worker. In 1980, by comparison, CEO pay was 42 times greater.
Look to the fast food strikers around the country for inspiration. Backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), workers in cities across America are demanding fair pay at $15 an hour and the right to unionize. Beginning in New York City and spreading to other major cities, workers are beginning to rally and speak out against their poverty wages from hugely profitable fast food chains. Willietta Dukes, in a piece for The Guardian, writes:
Burger King says they can’t pay employees, like me, higher wages because it would force them out of business. Yet last year it made $117m[illion] in profits and its CEO took home $6.47m[illion]. It would take me 634 years to earn that much.
I’ve worked in fast food for 15 years, and I can’t even afford my own rent payments. We just want fairness and to be able to provide for our families. No one who works every day should be forced to be homeless.
Where are the other advocates for American workers? Now is the time to speak out and push for long-overdue action….
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