Labor Day: For too many, another day without a job

September 6, 2011

UTU members participated in Labor Day events and parades nationwide, demonstrating that a healthy, energized and committed labor union movement is alive and well in America.

In truth, there was not too much to celebrate.

For too many Americans, this Labor Day was just another day without a full-time job; and for millions more Americans, any celebration of Labor Day was eclipsed by concerns of wage cuts, higher health care insurance premiums, loss of health care insurance, loss of collective bargaining rights and efforts by many in Congress to weaken Social Security, Medicare and public transportation.

Labor Day is the traditional start of political campaigns, and the 2012 presidential, congressional and state legislature elections will be a referendum on the future of organized labor and retention of all organized labor has achieved for Americans.

These achievements, all at risk in today’s harsh political climate, include collective bargaining rights, a minimum wage, the right to be heard and to present workplace grievances, an end to discrimination in hiring, overtime pay, paid holidays and vacations, employer provided health care insurance, compensation for workplace injuries, and workplace health and safety regulations.

Although UTU members are mostly secure in their jobs because of outstanding representation, here is a sampling of the climate facing working families in America today:

* Fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers today belong to a labor union.

* According to a recent Gallup poll, only 52 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of labor unions – 78 percent among Democrats, but only 26 percent among Republicans.

* Across America, 14 million Americans are unemployed, nine million part-time workers cannot find full-time employment, and almost seven million Americas have given up looking for work.

* The current 9.1 percent unemployment rate does not include part-time workers seeking full-time work or those who have given up looking for work.

* Since 2008, average annual wage increases have been less than 2 percent.

* There are currently almost five unemployed workers for every job opening.

* To reduce the current 9.1 percent unemployment rate to 5 percent, the economy must create an average of 282,000 jobs per month. In August, zero new jobs were created, and the job creation rate of an average of 240,000 new jobs monthly during the boom years between 1993 and 2000 still falls short of the 282,000 target figure to reduce the current 9.1 unemployment rate to 5 percent.

* The unemployed finding new jobs generally suffer a 20 percent reduction in earnings.

We know from history that in union there is strength. As we look ahead to the 2012 elections, it is essential that all members of working families eligible to vote are registered and go to the polls on Election Day to elect labor-friendly candidates, regardless of political affiliation. Union members have one of the highest rates of participation in elections, and that enthusiasm and effort must continue.

With assistance from the UTU’s political consultant, the UTU’s national legislative office and state legislative directors, the UTU will be keeping members informed about labor-friendly political candidates.

Participation in the UTU PAC is also important in helping to elect labor-friendly candidates, as these contributions assist them in delivering their message to voters.

Being involved with your union is also essential, and this includes attending meetings of your local.

If you believe in something strong enough, you fight for it.

We can turn things around in America, but it requires solidarity to win this fight and emerge stronger than ever, so that on the Labor Days of the future, organized labor and working families all have something of substance to celebrate.