This year’s Labor Day is a bittersweet occasion. On the one hand, it is always in order to pay respect to the accomplishments of America’s working men and women and the labor unions which represent them. On the other, it is dispiriting to see how many jobs have been lost since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2007, and how slowly new jobs are being created.
The loss of American jobs had begun well before 2007, of course, as corporations sought to bolster profits by “outsourcing” jobs to other countries at the expense of their own workforces. But with the onset of the recession, American workers suffered anew under job eliminations, furloughs, outsourcing, wage and pension cuts and part-timing. Although the economy has begun to grow slowly, jobs continue to be lost as employers resist re-hiring to handle increased business. In addition, older workers who previously held mid-level positions have been forced to accept lower-paying jobs, reducing their standards of living and blocking younger workers from finding employment.
I am not surprised that the economic recovery has been slow. One reason for the sluggish recovery is that American workers now have less money to spend on goods and services. Historically, America’s economy boomed as steady jobs and higher wages created a stable, prosperous middle class.
But those inhabiting corporate boardrooms have failed to learn from history and are cutting jobs, pay rates and pensions. As the short-sighted old New England farmer was heard to grumble, “I’m gonna quit feeding that cow until she starts giving me more milk.”
Fortunately, Democrats are working cooperatively with labor unions to oppose this trend. This summer, Congress overcame stubborn Republican opposition and passed a $26 billion bill to save the jobs of more than 900,000 state and local workers facing layoffs. And President Obama quickly signed it into law.
I applaud steps by Congress and the President to create more jobs for American workers. These steps should include expanded credit for small businesses to expand and hire new workers, disincentives to export American jobs to low-wage countries, and public investment in infrastructure. These and many other actions will — despite Republican opposition — put more Americans back to work so that they can support their families and rebuild their shattered savings.
As one who, during my 26 years in the telephone industry, came to respect the dedication and professionalism of my unionized co-workers, I am proud to have earned the support of numerous labor unions. These include the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, the American and Pennsylvania Postal Workers Unions, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Ironworkers International Union, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Carpenters Legislative Improvement Committee, the Central Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council, Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.