Labor Day has always been a day of celebration, of appreciation for the hard won achievements of previous generations of workers. The eight hour work day, the five day work week, ending of child labor, a start on gender equality — in short a recognition that workers had rights, and most fundamental, that they had the right to organize, claim and protect those rights.
Not much to celebrate this Labor Day. Workers rights are under assault, unemployment continues to climb and Labor Union members have been declared De facto terrorists by the wave of Republican legislators swept into office in 2010. They have lost and continue to lose the hard won gains of generations of union activists.
I have never belonged to a union and have, I suppose, been jealous of their solidarity, their ability to work together for their common good. Farmers have never been much for organizing, never been able to form that mass movement to claim their rights, demand a fair wage for their labor.
Wisconsin has been the at the center of the current assault on union rights, worker rights and in the big picture, human rights. As union members gathered daily to protest WI Governor Scott Walker and the Republican controlled Legislature’s attempt to bust the State’s Public Unions, it was clear that it was more than a union struggle.
Farmers, students, the unemployed all recognized that what the government was doing was wrong, everyone who worked for a living, or wanted to work, would be pushed further down the economic ladder as wealth continued to be shifted upward.
Those who gathered to protest in Madison had been, in general, supporters of President Obama. They had believed his campaign promise of marching in solidarity with them to protect their rights. Their pleas for for a Presidential visit to Madison were ignored, even Vice President Joe “the union guy” Biden was a no show in Madison.
The Administration continues, and in effect has even ratcheted up, the Bush agenda of supporting Wall Street’s every wish. It continued to bail out the big banks and investment houses while ignoring the average worker, those workers who were crushed by Wall Street’s sinking the wold economy .
The Administration vowed to create new jobs and they didn’t.
They continued to support and push for more Free Trade Agreements, insisting the trade deals would create jobs while it was crystal clear these agreements had done nothing but export jobs to increase corporate profit while America and the world economy burned.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be bigger and more destructive to workers and the economy than the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but President Obama insists that it must be passed.
More jobs shifted to cheap labor in Southeast Asia, a flood of dairy products from New Zealand and a further increase to the trade deficit,— that should help America get back on its feet.
By refusing to raise taxes on the rich, and giving corporations carte blanche to do what they will in search of profit, the President continues the failed agenda that began under the Reagan Administration—shift wealth upward, bust unions, cut social programs, wish the poor good luck and let Wall Street party on.
More of the same won’t save the economy. Yet, that seems to be the plan. Obama, by his continuation of failed economic policy and lack of nerve to stand up to Wall Street and the Republican agenda, is clearly showing us who runs the country.
A real unemployment rate of over 16%. Not much to celebrate on Labor Day 2011. Even a Presidential address will do little more than offer hopeful promises— and sadly, President Obama has a bad history on promises.
Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc, Wisconsin.