FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bring Back May Day

Most of the world recognizes May 1 — May Day — as International Workers’ Day. Here in one of the few countries that doesn’t, it’s worth pausing to ask how U.S. workers are doing.

At an event last December, Fight for $15 organizer Terrence Wise recalled “going to bed at night, ignoring my own stomach’s rumbling, but having to hear my three little girls’ stomachs rumble. That’s something no parent should have to endure.”

Wise was marking the launch of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Last month, the Institute for Policy Studies and the Poor People’s Campaign released The Souls of Poor Folka report on 50 years of change in the issues that affect working people, and particularly those at the bottom. We looked at systemic racism, poverty, militarism, and ecological devastation.

We found some startling and unhappy results. For the most part, workers like Wise are struggling hard to get by.

With the destruction of industries and the cities that housed them, the nature of our economy has shifted. Although the official unemployment rate is low, employment today often means low-wage work that offers little job security.

Our society’s treatment of workers has changed, too. For example, 28 states have passed so-called “right to work” laws that undermine the ability of workers to organize.

That’s meant steadily declining union membership, which keeps workers from getting their fair share of the wealth produced by the U.S. economy over the past 50 years. Despite enormous growth in the overall economy, wages for the bottom 80 percent of workers have remained largely stagnant.

In 2016, there wasn’t a single county or state in which someone earning the federal minimum wage could afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment at market rate. Yet today there are 64 million people working for less than $15 an hour.

Meanwhile, nearly one in five families have zero or negative net worth. That number rises to over a quarter of Latin American households and 30 percent of black households.

Of course, these changes haven’t happened in a vacuum. It’s not a coincidence that while most Americans are struggling, just three individuals — Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett — together own as much wealth as half of the country combined.

It’s also probably no coincidence that the American politicians backed by billionaires don’t recognize May Day.

People in power made choices like passing “right to work” laws that have led to these outcomes. And it will have to be other people — people like Terrence Wise — that set things right. At that same press conference where he described his family’s plight, Wise talked about how the Fight for $15 had helped raise the wages of 20 million workers and promoted their fight for a union.

Starting the day after Mother’s Day, the Poor People’s Campaign plans to engage in 40 days of civil disobedience in at least 30 state capitals and Washington, DC. It aims to show how systemic racism, poverty, militarism, and ecological devastation are all interconnected, and all undermine workers today.

Among numerous demands, they’re calling for federal and state living wage laws, a guaranteed annual income for all people, full employment, and the right to unionize.

These steps will restore a sense of well-being and economic security to America’s workers and give them what the hollow promises of politicians cannot: dignity. Join them this May Day at www.poorpeoplescampaign.org and make it one to remember for U.S. workers too.

Saurav Sarkar is the research coordinator for the Poor Peoples Campaign at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

 

More articles by:

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Craig Collins
Why Did Socialism Fail?
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail