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The Struggle for a Workers' Recovery

By       Message shamus cooke     Permalink
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Stocks are booming; the Dow Jones soared past 11,000; the very wealthy
are bursting from their financial seams. Meanwhile, mass unemployment
continues, with 95,000 more jobs -- mostly teachers -- lost in
September.


As millions of Americans sink into desperation, President Obama
continues to preach the good word of optimism, based on the gospel of
"private sector job growth."

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According to the President, the hundreds of thousands of public sector
jobs that have been recently destroyed due to the budget crises of
nearly every state and municipality should be overlooked, due to the
"encouraging" job growth of the private sector.


For example, in September the private sector added 64,000 jobs (159,000
public sector jobs were lost in September). Even if there had been zero
public sector job losses, adding 64,000 jobs would be only half what is
needed to keep up with population growth.


Most important, the minuscule private sector job growth that the
President keeps raving about involves low-paying jobs. For example, out
of the 64,000 private sector jobs created, 34,000 were low-paying jobs
at restaurants and bars, where pay is low and benefits are scarce.


This proves what most people already know: wages and benefits continue
to spiral downward. Public workers typically make a living wage and have
benefits, as opposed to those being hired at coffee shops or as
dishwashers.

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A giant shift is happening, with living-wage jobs in the public sector
being axed for low-paying private sector jobs, with millions remaining
unemployed to ensure that wages remain low. This is the basis of the
corporate profit boom.


Jeannine Aversa of the Associated Press reports:
"There are now 14.8 million people officially unemployed in the United States.... People out of work who have stopped looking for jobs are not counted as unemployed... nearly 27 million are 'underemployed'..."
October 8, 2010).
The threat of unemployment is used to coerce workers into accepting
lower wages and preventing them from protesting abusive treatment or
lack of benefits.


The staggering job losses in the public sector will only worsen as state
budget crises are balanced on the backs of teachers, social service
workers, and other public workers. The lack of action to prevent this
hemorrhaging must be viewed as a conscious and well-defined policy with a specific goal.


Public workers are the last stronghold in the U.S. labor movement; they
are thus the strongest obstacle to the corporate agenda being
implemented by both Democrats and Republicans.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 37.4 percent of public workers are unionized, as opposed to only 7.2 percent in the private
sector. It's not surprising that the group with the highest unionization
rates -- local government workers (43 percent) -- are being targeted
the most (this group includes teachers).


Public sector unions are in the fight of their lives, and they're losing
because they have one hand tied behind their back. For example, the
Democratic Party is spearheading the fight against public employees; yet
these unions continue to support this corporate party.


Also, public sector unions have not joined together in coalitions -- as
they do in Europe -- to fight back collectively. Divided, they are far
less powerful, since the corporations and their government are tightly
united for the unions' destruction.

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The massive One Nation demonstration in Washington, D.C. proved that
unions and other progressive groups can unite under a set of demands.
But uniting for one demonstration is not enough.


The labor movement and labor's allies plus other progressive groups must
unite locally and nationally to fully fund education, social services,
and to institute a massive public works program to employ all the
unemployed workers in the country. Such demands require that taxes be
raised on the wealthy and corporations and that the unwinnable wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan end immediately.


The vast majority of working people support these ideas, considered too "radical" by the Democrats and Republicans.

 

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Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)

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