Small business owners and working people constitute the core of the American electorate. They share the same origins and have far more in common than the major political parties would have them believe. Their shared political, social and family needs are being ignored by both parties, as they are cynically played one against the other. Expressing their discontent as Tea Partiers and Occupiers, they are no longer silent, nor can they be ignored.
A Common Background.
Organizations of craftsmen have an ancient origin and evolved into hundreds of specialized guilds in the Middle Ages. These guilds combined labor and small business. Members worked for themselves and trained their own apprentice helpers.
Along with independent farmers and local merchants, skilled craftsmen were the primary employers until the industrial revolution. Industrialization created the need for masses of unskilled workers and the conditions which ultimately compelled their organization.
Success of the earliest industrial strikes depended on local small business owners, who provided the necessary credit and support that allowed workers and their families to survive.
American small businesses and laborers have organized for self protection from the very beginning of the country. The bakery owners of New York City stopped baking in 1741 to protest price fixing by municipal authorities and printers struck in Philadelphia in 1786 for higher wages.
The Progressive Movement in the early 1900s was supported by labor, small businesses, the professional middle class and women activists. They sought to reform every aspect of the political system allowing voters to more directly control their government and to improve the quality of life for their families.
The Division of Labor.
A strong labor movement expanded during World War II and the postwar era to reach its peak in 1972, with the organization of almost one third of all public and private workers. These union members were the ground troops of the Democratic Party.
With the comfort and security of higher earnings and benefits, skilled workers moved up to the middle class and many of them and their children started small businesses. At the same time, President Reagan's war on organized labor began to cut the ties that workers had to their unions.
These factors, combined with Republican cooption of "family values" and religious matters as political issues, has resulted in only about 11% of workers, primarily in the public sector, now represented by unions. Almost 50% of all workers are voting for Republican candidates, often against their own interests.
Small Businesses and Their Workers.
Half of all working people in the United States either operate a small business or work in one. Small businesses represent 99.7% of all U.S. private employers and have, since 1989, created 93.5% of all net new jobs in the country. (National Small Business Association)
Almost three quarters of all U.S. business firms have no payroll. In other words, most are operated by self-employed persons, who may or may not have other sources of income. Of the almost six million firms with employees, 78% employ fewer than 10. (U.S. Census Bureau)
Given these realities, there is very little effective contact between small business owners and labor unions; however, there is a very high degree of shared interests between most small business owners and workers in America.