UnionMaine

Trust me, I work for the Government

Unions are good for the economy

We’re circling the drain, going faster and faster until the American economy drains away. This failure is due to the rapid widening inequality between profits and payout to those who do the work. A recession is grinning like a fleshless skull because consumers have no more money to buy goods and services. Median hourly wages, adjusted for inflation, are no higher than what they were three decades ago and in many cases have actually fallen. Unlike the past, most of what is being earned in America is going to the richest 5 percent. They don’t need to spend; they have what they need so the money piles up as power and does not run our economy.

There’s no easy fix to stop one way flow to the rich. Bringing back our middle class by making better schools and more affordable colleges available to students from poor and lower-middle class communities is part of the answer. We must stop rewarding outsourcing with tax breaks. The oil companies do not need our charity to the tune of fifteen billion dollars a year.

Raising the minimum income before any taxes are taken, while subjecting all income to the same Social Security deduction is another piece of the solution. Financing these programs is not a problem; a higher marginal tax rate on the rich would provide the funds without harming the rich. A higher tax rate can be achieved immediately by canceling the tax breaks put in by Bush.

A rarely talked about part of the solution is a return to strong labor unions. As shown by the success of the SEIU after organizing low-paid workers in local service occupations, such as retail workers, janitors, hotel and restaurant employees, and hospital workers. After organizing these groups have gained the bargaining leverage needed to get better wages. They gained a place at the table to suggest better ways of delivering services, improving productivity enough to cover the higher pay.

The past seven years have been difficult for workers attempting to organize themselves into unions. The Bush administration has handed out no more than wrist slaps for the illegal techniques. Laws have been passed to prevent recouping back pay. If the worker wins after years, the worst penalty to the company is that they must rehire and give back pay that was lost. Not benefits and no compensation for any suffering.

Up until the 1950’s most employers obeyed the law allowing workers to organize. In the 1950s, the NLRB found only one in 20 union elections tainted by illegal firings. As employers feel the increasing pressure to increase profit at any cost, the first attempt is always to cut wages. Union-busting became common and has grown to a multi billion dollar industry. In the early 1990s illegal firings happened in one quarter union elections. In 2008 polls show most workers would organize a union if they could, the process is so complicated that it’s rare they even get to choose.

Management and labor often have different views. A Union can be helpful to management by providing the security the employee needs to share their insights. In hospitals such as Eastern Maine Medical Center such sharing would be good for hospital patients, after all who knows more about how people are being treated, and how treatment can be improved, than the nurses and medical assistants on the floor? Yet management continually fights against giving a Union a place at the table.

Workers in the service industries and hospitals are among the lowest-paid and hardest-working people in America but the NLRB will never get them a fair hearing because it’s so broken. The NLRB is broken because corporate America has wanted it broken and George Bush has tried to give them everything they asked for. That is why workers in Maine like so many other workers across America want a fairer process for union elections.

The “Employee Fair Choice Act,” which passed the House of Representatives, will let workers have a union if a majority wants one. Pure Democracy in action.

The American economy is rolling over not only because we are spending twelve billion dollars a month that could have provided alternative energy and put us on the road to energy independence. It is in trouble because lower and middle-income workers no longer have the buying power they need to keep it going. The gap between rich and poor is wider than it’s been in over 70 years. Unions could help reverse this trend.

But even strong Union households voted for Bush for two elections. For the false claim of patriotism we voted for the very politicians that wanted to destroy the American worker.

We face serious problems due to the Bush implementation of substantial tax cuts, which have led to a recession. We are facing a massive drop off in consumer spending, and looking at layoffs. Layoffs that will only deepen the problems by putting more people on the overstrained safety net.

Even the comedians and the “left wing radicals” have fallen far short when predicting the economic disaster Bush created.

We must understand that the current situation is not just a few separated items. It is not just the tax breaks for the rich. It is not just the war. It is the result of complete incompetence and a total disregard for the American public to further the aims of only the top one tenth of one percent of the richest members of society.

While in the U.S. the talk shows still blame the public for buying houses “they knew they could not afford” the BBC is showing the real victims of the sub prime mortgage disaster, homeless tent cities in California made up not of illegal aliens but of former middle class home owners. Did you even know we have tent cities in the U.S.A.? For eight years our government has purposely ignored the rampant greed and B.S. excuses by corporate lenders that have lied to their clients. .

The economy is not working for working people and hasn’t been for a longtime. Since 2001 we have 1.7 million more people without jobs, 4.1 million more people in poverty, millions more food stamp recipients. Credit card debt is killing us all as we pay our mortgage or our fuel bill with Visa. .

Bush is bragging about a short-term stimulus, while the government is planning on putting two hundred billion dollars into the banks with no promises of help to those losing their homes. It is still the trickle down theory. Save the rich and everything will work out.

I echo many of the suggestions made by the AFL-CIO for immediate action and long term solutions.

Short term:

  • Extend unemployment benefits. (Bush doesn’t want this because the true state of the economy would become instantly obvious).
  • Increase food stamp benefits.
  • Provide tax rebates targeted to middle-income and lower-income taxpayers.
  • Kill the tax Bush tax cuts to the top 1%.
  • Accelerate ready-to-go public investment in school renovations and bridge repair.
  • End the war in Iraq and put all the efforts of our science and industry into energy independence.
  • Put a moratorium on foreclosures for six months and work to solve the problem.

Even the banks would support an immediate moratorium on foreclosures on sub prime mortgages. They don’t want to take back houses they can’t sell, but they are being forced to show how tough they are by investors that have never missed a meal in their lives. Throw the bums out is still the mantra of the mortgage industry.

We must fix our broken labor laws to let workers who want to form a union, form Unions with no interference and we must punish employers that engage in illegal Union busting.

PLEASE TAKE THE 2008 BARGAINING SURVEY

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Thank you to everyone who took time to fill out the 2008 bargaining survey. In just over a week, many responses have been completed. The emails I have received show just how serious a disaster we face in the coming year

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March 13th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Uncategorized | no comments

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