The attacks on workers’ rights in the United States were brought to unimaginable levels as a result of the 2010 mid-term elections, which gave complete control to Republican anti-union legislators and governors in a number of states including Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Resembling a state of emergency, the legislative priority for these, and other Republican controlled states, was to water down existing labor laws and impose unfair, burdensome measures such as yearly recertification, outlawing dues check off, and so called right-to-work laws for both public and private sector unions.
GOP priority: attack labor
This explosive attack on unions and the working class is well known to all of us in the labor movement, but bears repeating with the issue of income inequality getting more and more traction. There is no debating the fact that the unprecedented rolling back of legislative gains made by organized labor on behalf of America’s working class is the new priority of the Republican Party. While both Republicans and Democrats accept political contributions from corporate America, it is the Republican Party that is gladly doing the bidding of these corporate bosses. Introducing and passing viciously anti-worker legislation is now the trademark of the Republican Party.
But these recent attacks on labor is not what caused the huge economic chasm between the top 1% and the rest of the population.
Union members earn more
The corporate anti-union agenda has taken its toll on the American working class with the percentage of unionized workers peaking in 1953 at 35.7%. The percentage in 2014 was at 11.1%. This drop in union membership has affected all workers. Back when more than one in three workers were receiving fair wage increases due to collective bargaining, nonunion employers were forced to raise wages as well, although not to the level achieved by unions. With union density down significantly, both union and non-union workers’ wages have not risen as they did in the past. The only constant that remains is the fact that unionized workers are still better paid than their non-union counterparts. And, whatever gains have been made have gone to the upper income brackets.
The long and deep recession, caused by Wall Street fraud, combined with a workforce in which almost 90% are non-union, has gotten corporate America addicted to low or no wage increases for much of the working class. But now, many Wall Street allies and foes of labor are shedding crocodile tears for the overworked and underpaid.
Mitt Romney, just months ago, while he was considering another run for president was quoted as saying, “Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before.” This is the same billionaire who in his last run for president derided 47% of Americans by accusing them of acting like victims, being dependent on government, and not willing to take control of their own lives.
Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz speaks about the “top 1%” who are “getting fat and happy.” Another presidential hopeful, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee recently wrote an op-ed with the theme: “Fight for families, not the elites.”
Ohio Governor John Kasich, a possible Republican candidate for president, was quoted in 2013 as saying, “When you die and get to the meeting with Saint Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer. ” But Kasich had no problem crusading for small government with his failed attempt to gut public sector labor law just two years earlier. Income inequality has now become an undeniable economic reality. So much so, that those who have harmed us now want us to believe they want to help us. Simply put, their attempts to convince us of their concern are nothing less than an insult!