Reprinted from Truthdig
We can do this. Against overwhelming odds, the men and women of the labor movement changed society for the better. If you've ever enjoyed a paid vacation, a sick day, or time off on the weekend, they are the people to thank. And if you don't have those benefits on your job today, they are the people who can help you get them.
The truth is, right now things aren't going very well for the working men and women of this country. As the Economic Policy Institute points out, the recovery from the financial crisis of 2008 is reaching people unevenly. African-American unemployment is more than double that of whites, and the Hispanic jobless rate is also much higher than the white rate. Unemployment in some states is almost three times higher than it is in others. And many people are working part time when they'd rather be working full time.
It's not that the money isn't there. Productivity has risen in this country, but working people are not sharing in the wealth. For three decades after the end of World War II, productivity and wages grew together. Business profits rose, and the workers who made those profits possible did well along with their bosses. That's not happening today. Productivity has continued to soar, but workers have been cut out of the profits.
We can fix these problems. We can create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. We can increase family income by raising the minimum wage and defending workers' rights to organize on the job. And we can pass legislation giving American workers the same kinds of benefits available to citizens of other developed nations: guaranteed sick leave, caregiver leave, and family leave; mandatory overtime pay; guaranteed paid vacation; and access to healthcare as a human right.
We can do all of these things, but we've got our work cut out for us. The Citizens United decision was disastrous for our democracy, and big money continues to corrupt the political process. Billionaires are lining up to spend money buying our government. The Koch Brothers, the second wealthiest family in America, are prepared to spend nearly one billion dollars in the current election cycle -- more than the Republican or Democratic parties themselves are likely to spend.
These billionaires don't just want to cut Social Security -- they want to eliminate it. They don't just want to cut Medicare -- they want to eliminate it. They don't just want to cut the Veterans Administration, and the Postal Service, and a whole host of other programs Americans rely on. They want to eliminate them.
They want it all. They want to leave other Americans with the "freedom" to live in poverty. They want Americans to work for $3 or $4 an hour -- without healthcare, without childcare, without a pension, without the ability to send their kids to college, and without any hope that their children will have a higher standard of living than they do.
Now, when the oligarchs are trying to take it all, we must win that victory all over again. It can't be done by a president alone. We need a political revolution, a peaceful revolution where millions of people -- workers, veterans, the elderly, the disabled, people of color -- stand together to tell the billionaire class: Enough is enough. Your greed is destroying this country. You cannot continue to get tax breaks while children in this country are going hungry.
So, let's enjoy the holiday weekend. But this Labor Day let's also honor the men and women who have fought for the rights of working people in this country ever since it was founded -- by pledging to carry on with the work they've started.