Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Rich Got Theirs: What About the Rest of Us?

A Labor Day Message from Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President David Newby

Labor Day is the one day of the year intended to honor workers for their work. On this day all work should be acknowledged as conferring dignity, and working people should be recognized as the creators of wealth in this society.

Labor Day 2010 should be no different—except that this year working people have little to celebrate. We have the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. We have lost nearly 70,000 manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin during this Great Recession (and that’s in addition to more than 50,000 manufacturing jobs that our state lost due to fundamentally flawed trade agreements such as NAFTA). Tens of thousands have lost their homes.

Yet the “experts” say that there is little that can be done. Recovery from this recession is going to be slow and long in coming, they say.

And so the economy stagnates. But we don’t have to tolerate this. We can make large public investments in our infrastructure and increase support to state and local governments to get our economy moving again.

However, the rich and the right-wing have mounted a sophisticated, well-funded and alarmist campaign to convince us, falsely, that the immediate threat is not unemployment but the growing federal debt. This well-orchestrated media operation has persuaded an astounding number of politicians and pundits (and, unfortunately, a small but vocal minority of working class and middle class Americans) that our biggest problem is indeed the deficit, and that we need to cut back government spending.

What we need is precisely the opposite.

What we really need is public investment to keep people in their homes, provide desperately needed heath care, feed and clothe those who are struggling, and put people back to work so they can support their families and regain their pride. We need to fire up the factories, keep small businesses alive, and operate our financial system so that it supports our economy, promotes economic growth, and fosters home ownership.

For the health of our whole society, we need to rebuild, maintain and adequately fund our public structures including schools, roads and transportation systems, libraries, police and fire protection, and parks. We need to end the consolidation of media ownership, which excludes almost every progressive voice.

There is so much to be done. To its credit, the labor movement has tried to sound the alarm. While some progress has been made, the voices of workers and unions have been largely muffled—and certainly ignored. Meanwhile, Wall St. and CEOs prosper.

Still, we will not be silenced. Unions in America will continue to sound the alarm and fight for the interests of working people here in the United States and around the world. We will find new ways to communicate, new ways to organize, new ways to exercise power, and new structures that serve working families—because even when everyone gets back to work, we still will not have established social and economic justice in our society. But workers will always find a way—to restrain greed, restore economic justice, and build community for us all.


David Newby, President
Wisconsin State AFL-CIO

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