Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Turning America Around for Working People

Union leadership is fired up about working conditions in this country - rightfully so. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger gave a speech in Cleveland last week and stressed that public policy must change to support manufacturing. These are the key areas he touched on:
National health care -- "What's needed, as our union has long advocated, is a single-payer, universal, comprehensive, national health insurance program that covers every man, woman and child in America. Because we believe health care should be a right, not a privilege for those who can afford it."

Fair trade -- "Let's just a write the trade agreement on a postcard -- human rights, workers rights, environmental protections, protection from import surges, no currency manipulation and an enforcement mechanism. ... Our trade deficit is $2 billion a day."

Industrial policy -- "In this country, we have the most open market in the world, and we have stood idly by while entire industries have disappeared -- toys, textiles, televisions, computers and the list goes on. Unless we take action, we are going to see a continued decline in manufacturing industries."
America is not working for working people. Union busting tactics are on the increase, good jobs are disappearing, health care costs are soaring, and retirement security is being threatened. Here in Michigan workers are living with the ramifications of decisions made by politicians, corporate America and bean counters.
Michigan fell 10 places among the states in per capita income to 26th between 2000 and 2006 - the latest available year - as it shed thousands of manufacturing jobs, according to the Michigan Future study.

The state's per capita income was 8 percent below the national average in 2006, the worst performance since the Great Depression year of 1933, according to figures for the study prepared by University of Michigan economist Don Grimes.
Something needs to be done, but what? AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has some ideas he'll be outlining via live webcast tonight. "Turn Around America" is being sponsored by the John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.
In the first-ever address by an AFL-CIO president to the influential Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, Sweeney will describe why America is not working for working people and what the AFL-CIO will do to create an America that works for all, including increasing member mobilization this election year and working to reform U.S. labor law to give workers a free chance to form unions. Says Sweeney:
We have an opportunity not only to restore the voice and vitality of the union movement, but to change the direction of our economy and our country. We’re faced with a fundamental choice: continue down the low road we’ve been taking and end up in a swamp of inequality where corporations and the wealthy always get more, or turn around America and head back up to higher ground where working people get a fair share of the wealth they help create.
After his address, Sweeney will take part in an interview and a question and answer session with the audience. You can see the live webcast of the forum on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. at www.iop.harvard.edu/events_forum.html.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan - A blog so good Republicons had us censored!)


abi said...

If unions could make a comeback, it would make a big difference for working people and middle income people as well. Thanks for posting those quotes, and for the tip about the forum tonight.

RightDemocrat said...

We need to strengthen labor unions. A change is urgently needed in our trade policies that have destroyed so many American jobs. The U.S. have a strong industrial base. It is essential to our economic stability and national security as well.

Lew Scannon said...

I don't think it's a coincidence that the fall of the unions and the fall of the economy occurred simultaneously.

Kathy said...

Abi, here in Michigan unions really did play a key role in building our middle-class. Our per capita demographics have fallen considerably in the last 10 years as the number of union jobs were lost.

Rightdemocrat, welcome, and thanks for the comment. I agree that our trade policies have to be fixed so American workers aren't left behind.

Lew, I agree. Sadly, you and I have watched as the loss of good-paying union jobs hurt our communities and state.