Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor’s Fight is Also Your Fight, By Indiana AFL-CIO President, Nancy Guyott

Sure, you’re used to sleeping in, barbequing with friends and family
or, even working, on Labor Day. Each of us has our own tradition, our
own celebration of summer’s last hurrah or our own obligation to make
a living tugging at us on this weekend. But this year calls upon us to
do something more on Labor Day. It calls upon us to reflect on labor’s
struggle, on our own place in it, and to join together to demand a
restoration of the American Dream.

This year, those who labor - those who draw a paycheck from an
employer, whether they work with their hands or their heads - are
struggling through difficult times. This year, nearly one in ten
Hoosiers who are seeking work cannot find it and an even greater number
have grown so weary of the search that they have given up. This year,
one out of every two Americans report that their household has been
affected by job loss or a reduction in hours, wages or tips in the last
year.

We did not get here overnight. During the last decade, our economy
failed to create a single additional job. This came after six decades of
job growth no lower than twenty percent per decade. Moreover, real wages
have been stagnant or falling for years. The seeds of bad trade deals,
tax breaks for companies that offshore jobs and an increasingly hostile
legal regime for union organizing and bargaining have now been
harvested. Today’s economy is unprepared to absorb and unprepared toa
reward young workers entering the workforce and older workers thrust
back into the job market unexpectedly.

It is no mistake that the massive growth of the middle class occurred
when unions gained strength in our economy and working families gained
political strength as well. On the micro level, unions act as a check
and balance on the otherwise unrestrained power of corporate bosses - to
keep an unfair proportion of the wealth our work creates, to dictate
unacceptably dangerous or oppressive working conditions, or to restrict
our personal freedoms. On the macro level, unions act as a check and
balance on the otherwise unrestrained power of corporate lobbyists to
tilt our laws in favor of those same big corporations. When unions at
the bargaining table and working families in the voting booth helped to
ensure that wealth created by the hands, bodies and minds of all
Americans was shared with all Americans, our economy grew by leaps and
bounds. And our country provided the opportunity for each citizen to
work hard, raise a family with some security, retire with dignity and
enjoy watching his or her children prosper even more: the American
Dream.

This Labor Day reflect on your place in the labor movement’s
struggles and on which America you aspire to live in. For this
November, collectively we will choose between an America of contracting
opportunities for most of us, like the last decade brought, or an
America of expanding possibilities for all of us - like the one we are
just beginning to rebuild.

Nancy Guyott is the first elected female president and youngest to
serve in fifty for the Indiana State AFL-CIO. She is an Indiana
University graduate from the School of Law (cum laude 1993) and Harvard
College (A.B. cum laude 1990).

The Indiana AFL-CIO, founded in 1958, is a state federation of national
and international labor unions. It represents hundreds of thousands of
workings families across the state. We are committed to improving the
lives and conditions of all working families in Indiana. We are
politically and socially active in our state and local communities to
build, change and grow the labor movement of Indiana.

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