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Take Back Labor Day: Week 3 Roundup

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The fun continued unabated at TodaysWorkplace.org, as we continued our Take Back Labor Day project for Week 3: September 15-19, 2008. Although we featured fewer posts this week than the previous two weeks, we still tackled many provocative issues that are frequently in the headlines.

On Monday, September 15, we kicked off the week with a post by Paul Bland of Public Justice. Bland, at the center of virtually all litigation to eliminate the scourge of mandatory arbitration in employment cases, tells us all about the pernicious practice that “require[s] current and prospective employees to sign away core constitutional rights as a condition of getting a job,” in the post “Labor in Exchange for One’s Rights.”

The next day, Tuesday, September 16, features Phil Duran of Outfront Minnesota. Duran, who represents transgender employees in discrimination cases, reminds us that not everyone is fully sharing in Labor Day’s promise when transgender employees lack full antidiscrimination protections under federal law, in the post “Sharing Labor Day with Transgender Workers.”

Wednesday, September 17 continued Week 3 with Jeff Blum of US Action. Blum tells us about US Action’s exciting new initiative to bring back some New Deal-era ideas, in the post, The Next New Deal. I think we’d all agree with him that:

We need to invest in our nation’s future and rebuild our middle class; creating good paying jobs instead of shipping them all overseas. No more race to the bottom, we need to begin our race to the top!

In our last post of the week, on Thursday, September 18, Tula Connell of the AFL-CIO, addresses issues straight out of the headlines:

Worsening unemployment. Millions of home foreclosures. Two-income households unable to support families. America’s workers are facing economic disasters so severe, even the national media is paying attention.

Connell’s post, Working Harder for Less Mocks the American Dream, reminds us that the Employee Free Choice Act is a way that we can correct the existing imbalance between workers and their employers which is one of the causes of the financial inequities dominating the headlines.

Although we’re inching closer to the end of the month, we will still be going strong next week, with posts from notables such as: Ilona Turner, Cyrus Mehri, Jen Nedeau, Richard Freeman, and Charlotte Fishman. (See About Our Bloggers to learn more about our rock-star lineup for next week.) Stay tuned every weekday in September to hear about what our experts will be talking about next — you can be certain it’s being ripped from the headlines!

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The Next New Deal

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In 1932, at the middle of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt swept into office with the promise of bold economic reforms. Although conservative critics of the day said that it wouldn’t work–the same ones that watched the economy collapse and did nothing–policies implemented in The New Deal stabilized the banking system, cut skyrocketing unemployment, paid farmers and workers fair wages, and created a foundation for a generation of economic growth.

A few years later, World War II strengthened America’s economy, resulting in twenty years of prosperity. The standard of living of the American worker rose steadily, with the majority of workers making more and more money each year. Plants were hiring, homes were being built, parents were sending their children off to college, and each generation expected to do better than their parents.

Sounds like fantasy-land, right?

No, that was our reality for two generations–until businesses became greedy. Big business came up with a plan to force workers to do with less so that they could have more. Their strategy included: force wage concessions from their workers, restrict government regulation, lower taxes on corporations and the rich and move as many high-wage jobs overseas as possible.

This has been the Republican mantra for the past 30 years. And although this message of corporate elitism seems to resonate with the general public, you have to ask yourself: Who are these policies benefiting? Are they helping big business – who are now counting their profits in the trillions? CEOs – whose compensation now averages 400 TIMES their average worker? Or are they benefiting everyday, average citizens who are now making less and less while corporate executive make more and more?

Our government, whose constitution was based on “Of the people, by the people and for the people” have corrupted their morals and sold out to big business. Our Founding Fathers shed blood to keep this country from being controlled by an elite group of the super-rich. They wanted to make sure that the common man was being heard, rights were being respected and interests represented in their government.

Who are the real patriots, now?

No one expects to go back to the 1950’s. What we do expect, however, is for this country to get back to our democratic principles of economic fairness and concern for the commonwealth. This country is only as good as its people. For America to become great again, we have to get back to the days of American ingenuity, research, innovation and a strong, vibrant, highly educated and highly trained workforce.

We need to invest in our nation’s future and rebuild our middle class; creating good paying jobs instead of shipping them all overseas. No more race to the bottom, we need to begin our race to the top! It’s time to Invest in America’s Future.

For more information, please visit www.nextnewdeal.org.

About the Author: Jeff Blum is the Executive Director of USAction & USAction Education Fund. Blum’s experience in grassroots organizing is extensive. He founded and directed Pennsylvania Citizen Action, where he helped lead successful campaigns to reform the state’s public utility law, create a toxics right-to-know law and expand access to generic drugs for senior citizens. He has also worked for the Peoples’ Coalition for Peace and Justice, Massachusetts Fair Share, People for the American Way (where he co-coordinated the campaign to establish AmeriCorps) and was Transportation Policy Director for Citizen Action. Blum also served as President of Maryland Citizen Action, founder and member of the Advisory Board of the Jewish Fund for Justice and as a member of the board of Citizens for Tax Justice. He is on the executive committee of America Votes and is an advisor to Progress Now. In Pennsylvania, he ran for state Senate in 1990 and was the Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Director of the Clinton/Gore Campaign in 1992. He has a BSN from Boston University and attended the University of Chicago and the University of Warwick, England. He and his wife, Ellen Cassedy, reside in Takoma Park, Maryland, and have two children.

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