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This Labor Day the Struggle Continues

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From Common Dreams


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Labor Day was established in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, as a concession to the labor movement days after he used federal troops to crush a strike by railroad workers which resulted in 30 deaths and some $80 million in property damages. Workers then, and workers now, were fighting for decent wages and working conditions and the end of human exploitation.

Today, at a time of massive income and wealth inequality and an outrageous level of corporate greed, we must never forget the struggles and ideals of those who came before us. We must continue the fight for a government and an economy that works for all, and not just the wealthy and powerful.

Labor Day is a time to remember that for hundreds of years the trade union movement in our country has led the fight for equal rights and economic and social justice. And it is a day to pledge our continuing support to protect workers' rights which have been under fire for decades.

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The reality is that over the past 40 years, the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country have rigged the economy against the American middle class, the working class and the most vulnerable people. The result is that the very rich are getting richer while most working families are struggling.

In America today, the typical male working full-time is making about $2,100 less than he did 43 years ago, while millions of women are working two or three jobs just to cobble together enough income to pay the bills. Back in 1979, nearly four out of 10 private sector workers had a defined benefit pension plan that guaranteed a secure retirement after a lifetime of hard work. Today, only 13 percent do.

In 1980, CEOs made 30 times more than the average worker. Today, chief executives of the largest corporations in America make about 347 times as much as their typical employees.

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Meanwhile, the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country have never had it so good. The top 0.1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Fifty-two percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. One family, the Walton family of Walmart -- the worst union-busters of all -- owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans.

As a result, people all over this country are asking the hard questions that need to be asked:

Why is it that, despite all of the incredible gains we have made in technology and productivity, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages?

Why is it that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major industrialized country while we have seen a 10-fold increase in the number of billionaires since the year 2000?

How does it happen that many of the new jobs being created today in America are part-time, low wage jobs?

Why is it that since 2001, over 60,000 factories have shut down in America and millions of good-paying manufacturing jobs have disappeared? Why are the new manufacturing jobs being created in this country pay in some cases half of what manufacturing jobs used to pay?

Why are we in a race to the bottom with low wage countries like China, Mexico and Vietnam?

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Why are we the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care for all or to provide paid family and medical leave?

Why have we lost our position as the best educated country in the world and now find millions of people paying off outrageously high student debts?

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Bernie Sanders is the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. He is a member of the Senate's Budget, Veterans, Environment, Energy, and H.E.L.P. (Health, Education, (more...)
 

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