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Top Story: Democrats Prepare to Celebrate in Anti Union North Carolina

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“Labor has no place to go.” – Chris Hayes

WHAT WOULD Democrats be without labor? Where would they be?

What would the American middle class look like without unions? Before we met, my own husband was in a situation for many years in Nevada where the threat of unionization in the company where he worked solidified his living wage and benefits.

So, why, in the middle of a union fight in Wisconsin, did Pres. Obama decide to not only sidestep the discussion, but stay well away from offering anything but the most perfunctory support?

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Democrats in Wisconsin fielded a candidate against Scott Walker who said he wasn’t a union man. Except that wouldn’t stop the President from making the argument about Gov. Scott Walker’s governorship stripping workers of a path to middle class prosperity by gutting collective bargaining. Pres. Obama’s numbers with blue collar workers aren’t exactly great, so it could have benefited every Democrat. Instead all we got from the leader of the Democratic Party as labor went to battle was one tweet.

Now we get what’s about to play out this week. Pres. Obama will accept his party’s nomination in the most anti-union state in the country, North Carolina. It will be done in Bank of America stadium, though Democrats are dancing around this reality trying to avert everyone’s attention by acting like that’s not its name.

Perhaps it’s all triangulation that will be addressed by Pres. Obama in a shot heard throughout the country, as he rails against corporations carving out the way to upward mobility by neutering the only means by which this has been done in our country throughout history. Obama raising a call to support organized labor. We can dream, hope, though that’s not worked out very well for workers since the Bush recession hit.

All of this takes place as a new study from the National Employment Law Project reported by the New York Times reveals the reality of workers’ wages since the recession hit in 2008, which is that a living wage has been replaced by low wage jobs.

We find that during the recession (2008 Q1 to 2010 Q1), employment losses occurred throughout the economy, but were concentrated in mid-wage occupations. By contrast, during the recovery (2010 Q1 to 2012 Q1), employment gains have been concentrated in lower-wage occupations, which
grew 2.7 times as fast as mid-wage and higher-wage occupations. Specifically:

Lower-wage occupations constituted 21 percent of recession losses, but 58 percent of recovery growth.
Mid-wage occupations constituted 60 percent of recession losses, but only 22 percent of recovery growth.
Higher-wage occupations constituted 19 percent of recession job losses, and 20 percent of recovery growth.

Moreover, the unbalanced recession and recovery have meant that the long-term rise in inequality in the U.S. continues. The good jobs deficit is
now deeper than it was at the start of the century:

Since the first quarter of 2001, employment has grown by 8.7 percent in lower-wage occupations and by 6.6 percent in higher-wage occupations.
By contrast, employment in mid-wage occupations has fallen by 7.3 percent.

What makes these numbers worse is that, as the panel on “Up” with Chris Hayes discussed, some employees are being fired from their job that pays a living wage, say $50,000, then being rehired at a much lower rate for the same job, without benefits. With unemployment as it is today and desperation to remain employed or risk being permanently unemployable, workers are taking whatever they can get. Without organized labor in the picture they have no champion.

Van Jones, a former Obama official and founder of Rebuild the Dream, said it perfectly.

“I think this is part of a broader problem we have. Now, suddenly, us not fighting to defend our friends when now our enemies are coming for us turns out to be a bad strategy.” – Van Jones

As The Nation’s John Nichols reminds viewers, in Ohio, labor beat Gov. John Kasich by organizing and mobilizing, which caused him to back down. “Labor led,” it wasn’t the Democratic Party, because they’d been knee-capped in 2010. It’s no coincidence that in that state Sen. Sherrod Brown continues to earn his support from the voters by doggedly never backing down from the call to rally ’round and with organized labor, which should be the model across the country for Democrats, but unfortunately isn’t anymore.

But as Neera Tanden rightly adds, Pres. Obama shows strong support for labor in his American jobs proposal, backing teachers, firefighters and other unionized professions. Obama knows that the firing of public sector workers is part of what has stalled the economy.

However, no one can offer cover for Pres. Obama letting the Employees Free Choice Act “wither on the vine,” as Chris Hayes reviews it. EFCA was organized labor’s priority. It brings us back to the quote at the top. Union supporters have no place to go, so Obama wasn’t exactly worried about repercussions. Even after AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka said he was distancing himself from the Democratic Party, he eventually did a very predictable thing by endorsing Pres. Obama for 2012. Still, whereas unions spent $8.5 million in 2004 in Denver, there will be no skyboxes or events hosted, with voter registration their goal and financial focus instead. This still helps Democrats, obviously, but it’s a strategy now moored in building the profile of labor unions versus backing a politician who simply hasn’t been there when they were up against it.

The federal pay freeze didn’t do much for Pres. Obama’s image with organized labor either.

But here in Virginia, Recovery Act signs have been seen since it went into action, sending a big message that jobs were brought here by Obama.

Former Clintonite and now Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis sells the issue inside the Obama world. It should also not be underestimated what Pres. Obama’s recess appointments to the NLRB, National Labor Relations Board, back in January of this year meant and the signal it sent to organized labor.

We commend the President for exercising his constitutional authority to ensure that crucially important agencies protecting workers and consumers are not shut down by Republican obstructionism. Working families and consumers should not pay the price for political ploys that have repeatedly undercut the enforcement of rules against Wall Street abuses and the rights of working people. – AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka

To place parts for comparison up against one another, yes, Pres. Obama stayed out of the Wisconsin battle after his own party put up an anti-union candidate, but the NLRB appointments gave organizes labor something they wanted very much, even if they didn’t get squat from the President on EFCA.

The approach Pres. Obama has utilized with organized labor is almost a carrot and stick philosophy. It’s Obama’s reluctance to go to the mat for the middle class until his own skin’s in the game that has people as important as Van Jones saying that “not fighting to defend our friends when now our enemies are coming for us turns out to be a bad strategy.”

It’s certainly one reason progressives may vote for Pres. Obama, but there is a large number who don’t intend to go to the mat for him either. None of these people want a Romney presidency, but they’re also very aware that in a second term there are other things that will come down that progressives won’t like. The first of which is the “grand bargain,” which Obama has already dangled in front of Speaker John Boehner’s nose before.

source: National Employment Law Project


source: National Employment Law Project

source: National Employment Law Project

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20 Responses to Top Story: Democrats Prepare to Celebrate in Anti Union North Carolina

  1. Jane Austen September 3, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    I sometimes think America is reverting to the “Dark Ages.” You know where the aristocracy and nobles controlled the resources, the lords of the manor were given land for loyalty to the nobility, and the rest, you know the serfs, worked their fingers to the bone. In modern day America, we have the very wealthy controlling the money, resources and power, what’s left of the very small middle class enjoy a modicum of success for their loyalty to the powers that be, and the rest of the people are enslaved to the system. I was forced to read Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” when I was an undergrad and his definition of capitalism was quite different from what it is today. In all honesty, I think we need a new model. This country is going to hell in a hand basket. And while I blame the past and present administrations for much of what has happened to this country economically, I hold the greedy and corrupt Congress responsible for not fighting for the people who put them in office. Especially the House, which is supposed to be the “people’s house.” In addition, many of the unions have let their membership down also “by crawling into bed with management” as my dad use to say. And dad was a staunch supporter of unions and truly believed that this country would never have become the power it eventually became.

    These are just the observations of an old broad on Labor Day. Taylor, Keep hitting on the inequality that rages in this country.

  2. Jane Austen September 3, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    And to everyone out there – Enjoy your Labor Day and your barbeques. But try not to forget those who don’t have the opportunity to have a barbeque. My hubby and I are hosting a bbq at our church (free of charge) for about 100 of our brothers and sisters who don’t have the opportunity for a little R&R on Labor Day.

    • Joyce Arnold September 3, 2012 at 9:06 am #

      Cheer to you and your husband :)

    • Cujo359 September 3, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

      You and your husband deserve a good Labor Day. Hope it works out to be.

    • secularhumanizinevoluter September 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

      have I mentioned that I love you?

  3. Pilgrim September 3, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    MSNBC has been running a rather clever tweet by Taylor Marsh re the irony of the Dem convention in anti-labour N.Car. — on Labour Day!

    • Taylor Marsh September 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

      Do tell me more. Minus Chuck Todd, haven’t watched the talking heads all day.

      • Pilgrim September 3, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

        Yes. It ran on the crawler at the bottom during several hours, including daily rundown. I can’t remember the exact words. It started “Taylor Marsh: and then quoted a tweet you had made about the location and time of dem convention, and I thought your wording was quite neatly turned.

        • Pilgrim September 3, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

          It was on with some other tweets from Politico, John Harwood, and other such notables.

          • Taylor Marsh September 3, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

            hehheh… That’s hilarious, Pilgrim. Thanks for telling me.

  4. fangio September 3, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    In the Caterpillar strike over 800 people walked off the job but only about a hand full were on the picket line. Where were the other 750?, home watching reruns on cable? The union eventually gave Caterpillar everything they wanted, including a five year wage freeze. They gave this to a company that made billions in profit the year before and had already made record profits in the preceding quarter.

  5. Cujo359 September 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    From a time long ago when PBS actually did reporting:

    start quote:

    In an attempt to appease the nation’s workers, Labor Day is born

    The movement for a national Labor Day had been growing for some time. In September 1892, union workers in New York City took an unpaid day off and marched around Union Square in support of the holiday. But now, protests against President Cleveland’s harsh methods made the appeasement of the nation’s workers a top political priority. In the immediate wake of the strike, legislation was rushed unanimously through both houses of Congress, and the bill arrived on President Cleveland’s desk just six days after his troops had broken the Pullman strike.

    1894 was an election year. President Cleveland seized the chance at conciliation, and Labor Day was born. He was not reelected.

    end quote

    Labor leader Eugene Debs was sentenced to six months in prison for, effectively, helping Pullman workers stand up for their rights. Joyce’s column today includes a quote from some modern labor leader or another said that the problem nowadays is that everything is illegal. He forgets, or ignores, both the timing and the history of the labor movement in America. None of them would consider the risk of going to jail to be part of their job description. If you want to know why labor is where it is today, I think you can start there.

    In contrast to Grover Cleveland, President Obama, the new Democratic king of empty gestures, may well be re-elected. I love how in that Hayes piece nearly the first word out of “progressive” leader Van Jones’ mouth are that none of this is Obama’s fault – that it’s all the fault of those nasty rich people, and progressives for not fighting more. I realize that “balance” requires that at least one of the panelists be in the tank for the President, but it’s still painful to watch displays like that.

    When we demand so little of our leaders, they’re happy to deliver.

  6. Taylor Marsh September 3, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    Did anyone see the clip from Pres. Obama in Ohio, a battleground state, talking about the importance of unions?

    I swear to the gods, the only time the President steps out is when his political posterior is on the line.

    No doubt someone will tout the clip.

    • ladywalker68 September 4, 2012 at 12:27 am #

      Oh, so NOW unions are important. Un-friggin’-believable!

    • T-Steel September 4, 2012 at 6:58 am #

      Yep I saw the clip. It didn’t even register simply because:

      This is the new normal regarding unions.

      I’ve never belong to a union. Haven’t sniffed at one. But my parents, uncles, aunts, great-aunts, great-uncles who worked for Ford Motor Company (we’re a FMC family) were hardcore union folks. And I grew up going to union picnics and hanging around the union kids. There was this feeling of a united front. It was intoxicating. And the UAW union did much for my family. Yes we knew about union corruptions and such. But being an information technology worker where you basically are shipped around every EPS (earnings per share) report (whether up or down) is frustrating, depressing, and financially harmful.

      President Obama is just doing what he’s been told to do regarding “hot and cold on unions”. And I’ll leave it at that. :(

  7. TPAZ September 4, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    This week should be renamed the week of amnesia. Every Republican act perpetrated by Obama will be forgiven or forgotten by his DINO (Democrat In Name Only) worshipers in Charlotte, NC., Regardless how fascistic Obama policies have become, Romney/Ryan is the institutional straw-man/stalking horse to make you vote against your self interest and allow Obama to continue George Bush’s third term. Both should be run out of Washington by liberals.

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