May Day, 2012
While not officially involved in the May Day events scheduled for today including marches and a call for a general strike, APV is very sympathetic to many of the concerns and aspirations that have traditionally revolved around the first of May. So while the press may end up fixating about confrontations between authorities and protesters we’d like to draw your attention to some of the serious issues that this day’s events are meant to be highlighting.
- · Stalled wages: over the last three decades the cost of living has continued to rise, but average wages have not moved. While worker productivity has skyrocketed compensation has not kept pace. Instead profits for the wealthy have soared over this period creating the largest gap between rich and poor since the 1920s and effectively shrinking a broad middle class that gave us the strong underpinning that a democracy needs to survive.
- · During this same period a concerted war against organized labor has raged. Union busting has been largely successful in much of the United States and there is clear evidence that it has contributed to the previous problem of stalled wages. When workers can no longer bargain collectively to leverage concessions from corporate bosses, the outcome is invariably lower wages, longer hours and less safe working conditions.
- · America is the only industrialized nation that does not provide its citizens with a state funded healthcare system. This places massive stress on both industry and on labor. State sponsored healthcare is simply cheaper and more effective than the Byzantine, patchwork system that exists today. While some elements of the 2009 Affordable Care Act were laudable, its focus on preserving the current system was a bad idea and we need to move ahead with a universal, single payer plan that removes the profit motive as the prime indicator for healthcare outcomes.
- · In the second decade of the 21stcentury women still make 77 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. Women deserve equal pay for equal work! Women deserve equal pay, but they also need support if they choose not to work or to work less in order to have children. We need to support American families with longer maternity leaves and childcare alternatives as well as options for men that would allow them to share more fully in raising their children. Measures like these would go a long way to helping women finally achieve parity. In the meantime, women need to be paid the same as men for the same work.
- · America needs a financial system that serves American workers and protects them from the most harmful byproducts of globalization. Companies have to stop being rewarded for moving jobs overseas or from using that threat as a wedge to pry even more concessions from our already battered workers. The continued assault on labor has taken the form of union busting, offshoring, and more recently moves to bring back relics from the Gilded Age, like legal sweat shops and child labor. While a global economy may be inevitable, there is no reason that the burdens and stresses associated with it should be born solely by the workers and their families.
For a generation now America has been steadily moving backwards on issues that involve labor and the rights and privileges of workers. It’s time to stop this harmful trend. May Day originated in the U.S. in 1867 as part of the agitation for an eight hour work day. It’s sad that 145 years later we’re still fighting for some of the same basic rights that fueled the Progressive Movement and the New Deal. Today we urge you to stop and think at some point during your busy day at work, or if you chose to strike or if you chose to do something in between, about the fact that if we don’t diligently foster and protect our rights, including our right to a decent wage, a safe working environment and the right to organize and bargain collectively, we will surely lose them. Happy May Day from the Alliance for Progressive Values.