For many, Labor Day weekend is a time for travel, relaxing with family, enjoying the last remnants of summer. But for many workers the day means another day on the job and struggle to make ends meet.
The road from the late 1970s to the present is filled with potholes, not the least of which was “trickle-down economics,” which was really “trickle up economics.” The starting point during the Reagan era included cuts in corporate taxes and reduced taxes on the wealthy, outsourcing work to other countries, right wing cutbacks on unions, an un-patrolled era of national and international inequality. Homelessness skyrocketed and progress for hungry citizens suffered cuts.
Fast forward to 2015 and the picture is not pretty for workers. Workers work longer hours for stagnant wages and few benefits. Paid parental leave is a dream.
According to a survey provided by the Federal Reserve, in spite of lower unemployment figures, only 53% of workers responding indicated they could cover an emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money. One third of those responding reported going without some form of medical care because they could not afford it. Retirement is a challenge. How do many workers plan for retirement? Because of a lack of financial resources many workers will continue working as long as possible. The survey reported that 31% of non-retirees have no retirement savings, fewer than half are confident that their savings will provide enough support in their retirement years.
In most US counties the median income is about $52,000 – less than it was 15 years ago. Are these facts part of the current political debates?
The most important way to honor workers is to ask the hard questions of presidential candidates and all running for public office.
Concerned citizens need to know:
- positions on support of a living wage and equal pay for equal work;
- a fair tax system that provides tax cuts to middle income families and working poor;
- closing tax loopholes on corporations and wealthy;
- lowering the interest on student loans;
- supporting paid parental leave;
- increasing taxes on corporations that send jobs out of the US.
We honor labor by finding our voice on these issues and calling for responsible action from those seeking office. They are hearing from the wealthiest among us. Will money trump our voices and votes? No pun intended.