Democratize the workplace by encouraging employee-owned businesses. It is time to replace wage-slaves with employee owners. Employee-owned businesses perform better not only in providing wages and benefits to employees, but larger profits and less bankruptcy. Several studies show the greater the level of employee participation the greater the level of productivity. Democratization of the workplace – giving employees more power as employee-owners is the future – a future that is better for employees and corporations. Restore union rights, repeal Taft-Hartley, protect the collective bargaining rights of private and public workers.
Reduce the work week with no reduction in pay. Before the economic collapse, 7% of the U.S. GDP was based on consumer buying. Since the early 1970s wages have been flat in the U.S. and the consumer economy has continued because of two-income families, increasing personal debt and cheap goods from abroad. This is unsustainable. In a time when millions are losing jobs, millions more are underemployed and tens of millions more are working overtime and two jobs just to make ends meet, we can’t afford to be putting people out of work. A reduction in the work week with no reduction in pay would spread the work around, keep people working and equally important, allow ‘the overworked American’ some additional, much needed leisure time. After 2000, the United States overcame Japan as the country with the most overworked employees. That’s not an accomplishment to be proud of, but rather, a problem to be solved. A root cause of the downturn in the U.S. economy is insufficient buying power – the economy has doubled in size, productivity has dramatically increased but workers have had no increase in buying power. One remedy for this is the 32 hour work week and increase in overtime pay to double-time.
Establish a national guaranteed income for all Americans based on the model proposed by Richard Nixon in 1969. Governments are already paying a heavy cost for poverty and homelessness, much of that would disappear with an income guarantee. Indeed, currently nearly as much is spent on poverty bureaucracy as on poverty, by simply sending a check that bureaucracy is no longer needed. The guaranteed income is paid by government to its citizens on an individual basis, sufficient to meet basic needs. Poverty has been rising in the United States since 1999. The national poverty rate has climbed to record highs in recent years. More than 46 million people (14.3%) were in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million (13.2%) in 2008, according to data from the U.S. census; roughly 40% of Americans fall below the poverty line at some point within a 10-year time span. The United States has one of the highest poverty rates in the developed world. Moreover, the standard of living for those in the bottom 10% was lower in the U.S. than other developed nations except the United Kingdom, which has the lowest standard of living for impoverished children in the developed world. Economist Milton Friedman proposed a variation of guaranteed income known as the “negative income tax.” In this model, income subsidies would be given through the tax system to persons or families with employment or other income below the poverty line. Guaranteed income is meant to cover basic needs, not life’s luxuries.
Social Security does not contribute to the deficit. Social Security is financed by a designated Social Security tax and there is more than $2.5 trillion in the Social Security trust fund. The efforts to cut Social Security to fix the deficit are a fraud designed to enrich Wall Street financiers by forcing people into the private retirement market.
Defend and Expand Labor’s Rights!
The corporate class is using the financial crisis orchestrated by them to launch unprecedented attacks on the job security, living standards, working conditions and essential public services once enjoyed by the working class not only in the United States but in countries across the globe. This cold-blooded offensive threatens the very existence of our unions and shreds the safety net of all working people.
Among the many examples of this offensive:
- Congress voted to cut the number of weeks for unemployment insurance in order to pay for suspending the payroll tax deduction, resulting in the termination of compensation for 236,000 long-term jobless workers;
- They joined about 134,000 who had exhausted their benefits in April and about 40,000 whose checks ended in January or February;
- Congress also voted to cut $15 billion from pension benefits for federal workers in order to pay for suspending the payroll tax deduction;
- Attacks on postal workers’ jobs and postal services continue, with plans in place to fire 28,000 workers and close 229 processing centers;
- Congress refuses to act decisively and legislate a moratorium to protect home owners from foreclosures;
- With the president leading the way, Congress approved the so-called free trade agreements involving Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which degrade workers’ rights in all countries involved, with Colombia being the number one country in the world where union organizers are routinely assassinated or “disappeared”;
- Congress voted to perpetuate spending to the tune of ten billion dollars a month for the war against Afghanistan, and President Obama signed an agreement with Afghan President Karzai extending U.S. intervention in that country for 10 years after 2014. Meanwhile the U.S.‘ astronomical military budget continues to devour funds needed for jobs, infrastructure, safety net programs, and other human needs;
- Congress voted for a measure that will become effective January 1, 2013 (unless changed before then) that cuts $600 billion in domestic programs, which the National Education Association denounced as being a devastating blow to vitally needed educational programs;
- Racist violence and profiling of African Americans, Latinos and other communities of color is rising across the country;
- Voter suppression is becoming more and more widespread, with an estimated five million people projected to lose franchise rights in 2012;
- Increasing ICE raids, deportations and other assaults on immigrant workers continue at record rates;
- The drive escalates to ratchet up the perennial campaign to increase the number of states with “right to work” laws, the latest being Indiana;
- Public statements by leading Democratic and Republican members of Congress, as well as by the president, reflect agreement by them on the need for significant cuts in “entitlements,” which include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other safety net programs;
- Rejection of the labor-backed single-payer health care system – without even a public option being included! – was enacted under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010, which allows the big health care for-profit insurance companies to remain as the centerpiece of the system;
- Congress also failed to enact a top labor priority: the Employee Free Choice Act (card check bill). Although the EFCA passed the House of Representatives in 2007, it died in the Senate when the necessary 60 votes could not be marshaled to close debate and prevent a Republican filibuster. Although the Republicans had only 41 members in the Senate at the time, several key Democratic senators also opposed the bill;
- Labor movement unity in action — public and private sector, the two federations and the independent unions — is indispensable for success in stopping and reversing these attacks. We envision a strategy that includes both actions in the workplace and in the streets.
We must go to the streets to defend trade union and democratic rights. The right to collective bargaining is a right enshrined in universally recognized Conventions 87 and 98 of the UN-based International Labor Organization (ILO); it is also a human right codified in the UN Charter. In fact, the United States is on trial before world public opinion for violating basic labor rights at home. The ILO ruled recently that the state of North Carolina was out of compliance with international labor standards for denying collective-bargaining rights for public sector workers, and the ILO called on North Carolina and the U.S. government to repeal this ban on collective-bargaining rights.
We must also go to the streets to oppose the concessions demanded by the bosses and the government. There is plenty of money available without demanding givebacks from public or private sector employees, but this requires changing our nation’s priorities to raise taxes on the rich, create tens of millions of good paying jobs primarily by means of a massive federal jobs program, prevent outsourcing of jobs, guarantee pensions and provide retirement security, replace our for-profit health care system with single-payer, redirect war dollars to meet human needs, and more — all demands that we must place on the federal and state governments. We can no longer effectively deal with such crucial issues as health care and retirement through collective bargaining alone.
The U.S. does not have a deficit problem, it has a revenue problem, and progressive taxation of the wealthy — a hallmark of the U.S.’s highest periods of growth — is our response to the false cry of austerity. We defend the social insurance model — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education, food stamps, unemployment insurance, etc. — and demand that these programs be strengthened and improved. And it is high time we follow the example set by our Canadian sisters and brothers, who decades ago won Medicare for all.
Contract negotiations cannot create the 27 million full-time jobs urgently needed today. Since the private sector has failed to do this (in fact, the corporations continue to off-shore good paying full-time jobs in their continued drive to lower labor costs), we need a public sector that can put America back to work rebuilding our neglected and crumbling infrastructure, revitalizing mass transit, and promoting a sustainable economy. The public sector and public services provide the basic core safety net for human rights.
In fighting for such independent solutions to our country’s crises we would return to what once was the bedrock of trade unionism — our unions championing the needs of the entire working class, including the unemployed, not just our dues-paying members. That approach was what enabled the historic labor victories during the depths of the Great Depression. This is not only the right thing to do; with union density at near record lows we cannot win the big struggles just on our own.
To cement working class unity we must reject every attempt to divide us by race, color, gender, immigration status, religion, or sexual orientation. This means not only politically correct resolutions but active support to all targets of such pernicious discrimination.
A unified, energized working class could reach out for even wider alliances. There are millions of students, mom-and-pop businesses, family farmers, and others who are being squeezed by the corporate class.
Our goals cannot be met while American blood and vast amounts of our tax dollars are being consumed by unjust wars and occupations to advance the global corporate agenda. We say end the wars, stop intervening in the internal affairs of other countries, terminate the drone attacks which are killing an increasing number of civilians, bring all the troops home now — and put the war budget to work to meet human needs.
Instead of supporting expansionist wars, the labor movement should embrace international worker solidarity. The mutual declarations of support between protesters in Madison, Wisconsin and insurgent independent unions in Egypt are a proud example that deserves wide emulation.
Since the major attacks we face today have bipartisan support, labor must act independently of the Democratic and Republican Parties. To the extent that the labor movement subordinates its demands to agreements with these parties in the name of "shared sacrifice," it will not be able to defend effectively the interests of its members and of the working-class majority.
The call to protect the right to collective bargaining must include the demand to repeal all laws that prevent workers from having the right to bargain collectively and arrive at enforceable contracts. Laws, such as the Taft-Hartley Act, that prevent the consolidation of strong unions in the South and every other region of the country, must be repealed.
We must view organizing the South as fundamental to rebuilding a strong national labor movement in this country and we urge adoption by labor organizations of the following resolution:
Defend and Expand the Right to Collective Bargaining, the Union Shop, and Human Rights Under International Law
Whereas, more than 6.9 million federal, state, and local government workers have no legally protected collective bargaining rights and 24 of the 50 states in the US have no legal framework for collective bargaining; and
Whereas, 2 of the 25 states without legal frameworks for collective bargaining—North Carolina and Virginia—have unjust laws banning public sector workers from securing a legally enforceable contract on the job with their employers; and
Whereas, the right of public sector unions in protected states to bargain collectively for a legally enforceable collective bargaining agreement has been viciously and unjustly attacked; and
Whereas, the low wages and lack of protected benefits among public sector workers in the Southeast, many western states, and now a mid-western state like Indiana, who have no collective bargaining rights are being whipsawed against public sector workers who have collective bargaining, as a means to bring down wages, benefits, and trade union strength for all workers; and
Whereas, the Taft-Hartley Act was historically enacted in 1947, and adopted state by state through the Southeast and many western states, to prevent the growth and consolidation of a strong and unified national trade union movement in the U.S. by banning the closed shop and authorizing states to outlaw union shops, even after a majority of workers have voted for union organization and representation; and
Whereas, the historic issues of discrimination by race, gender, and other means in wages, working conditions, and society as a whole are sustained by a weakened national trade union movement and the lack of collective bargaining rights; and
Whereas, the economic crisis and recession was created by the greed and malfeasance of Wall Street and the unjust and unnecessary wars abroad; and
Whereas, the right to form, join, and organize a strong trade union movement and to bargain collectively with our employers in the public and private sector is recognized and protected as a fundamental human right under international law; and
Whereas, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has investigated and found the state of North Carolina in violation of international law for its ban on collective bargaining and has issued a decision in this regard; now therefore be it:
Resolved, that ___________________________ calls on its officers, members, stewards, committees and all others to actively support the fight to protect and defend our collective bargaining rights wherever they are under attack and link that fight directly with the fight to expand collective bargaining rights into the Southern and Western states; and be it further
Resolved, that we will actively call upon our national union affiliates and elected officials as well as community groups, churches, and other organizations, working together, to publicly condemn the state of North Carolina at the local, national, and international levels for its violation of international law; and be it further
Resolved, that we will actively support the fight to repeal all laws banning collective bargaining in the states of North Carolina and Virginia; and be it further
Resolved, that we will actively support and provide financial and any other possible resources we have toward the building of a Southern Alliance for Collective Bargaining in the southeastern states; and be it further
Resolved, that we will actively call for, build, and support the fight for repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act and pending this happening, repeal of the prohibition of union shops in each adopted state; and be it finally
Resolved, that we will actively and publicly condemn the greed and corruption on Wall Street and the unjust and unnecessary wars abroad and call on all local and state governments faced with budget shortfalls to demand and enforce fair and higher tax rates for the rich and corporate class and to end the wars abroad and use those dollars to expand and strengthen the public sector and provide for human needs.