Labor Day Message from AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.

 

As the newly elected president of the nation’s largest union representing federal and

AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.

D.C. government employees, I feel Labor Day is a time to recognize the extraordinary women and men who make a difference in their jobs day in and day out.We are the VA doctors, nurses and support staff who run the best health care system in the world.

We are the claims processors who make sure senior citizens get their Social Security checks each month.

We are the mechanics repairing Army tanks so they’re ready for the next battle.

We are the law enforcement and security officers patrolling our nation’s borders, prisons, airports and buildings to ensure your protection.

We are the inspectors who ensure your food is safe to eat.

There’s one thing that ties us all together – we are proud union members and work connects us all.

Thanks to unions, federal employees and all workers in America are assured a minimum wage, overtime rights, protection from job discrimination and safe working conditions.

Whether or not you belong to a union, you are making a difference in somebody’s life each and every day. And whether or not you realize it, the work that you do touches someone else.

So on this Labor Day, I want to say thank you. Thank you to the 650,000 federal and D.C. government workers who are part of AFGE. Thank you to all of the men and women who work on behalf of the federal government. And thank you to workers everywhere for all that you do each and every day.

From all of us here at AFGE, Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day 2010: Puppets of the plutocrats

By the Editorial Board of the St.Louis Post-Dispatch

America should just go ahead and cancel Labor Day. Really.

Other than as an excuse for a picnic, what’s the point? Three hundred and sixty-four days a year, we honor plutocrats, and one Monday holiday in September is going to make up for it?

Organized labor no doubt would object. Big deal. One worker in eight belongs to a labor union. And last year, for the first time in history, more public-sector workers (500,000 more) belonged to a union than did private-sector workers.

Oh, the irony. For the second year in a row, Americans “celebrate” Labor Day with unemployment at 9.6 percent or higher. Corporate profits are 5.7 higher now than then they were in the fourth quarter of 2007, when the recession began. The number of jobs is 5.9 percent lower.

Labor — by which we mean not only organized labor but the entire working class — should just give it up. Roll over. Turn turtle. Admit it: The class war is over, and you lost. You not only lost, you collaborated.

Organized labor still may be fighting the good fight. But a lot of the working class is out there marching in the streets on behalf of the monied class, puppets of the plutocrats, angry as hell at all of the wrong people.

Oh, it wasn’t always like this. Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 because President Grover Cleveland and Congress were frightened of labor’s power.

This was after Eugene V. Debs of the Railroad Workers Union had brought the country to its knees over the Pullman car strike. Cleveland had put the strike down with the Army, probably illegally, killing 13 people in the process.

At one point Debs had 250,000 workers off the job. Labor Day, which was rushed through Congress in six days flat, became a way to pacify them.

Labor Day signaled the beginning of the end of what Mark Twain called the “Gilded Age,” when there was more disparity between rich and poor than at any time in the nation’s history, except maybe this one.

More important were the real gains that labor achieved in the next few decades: higher wages, shorter work weeks, the progressive income tax and acceptance of the fundamental concept that labor was as important as capital in the production of goods and the provision of services.

That concept is all but gone today, a victim not only of industrialization, the technological revolution and globalization, but also of shrewd, cynical and effective politics.

Working-class America got distracted by its own success. It had houses in the suburbs, 500 TV channels and cheap credit so it could go to Wal-Mart and buy all the foreign-made toys it wanted.

In the 1970s, conservative billionaires began funding think tanks to attack the forces of progressivism. The Reagan Revolution co-opted a lot of labor votes with jingoism. The late Lee Atwater perfected the use of “wedge issues” — God, guns, gays and abortion — to distract the working class from economic issues.

In the 1990s, Roger Ailes, an old Nixon and Reagan hand, helped launch the career of Rush Limbaugh and turned Fox News into an advocacy platform for the political goals of America’s billionaires. Working-class America was so busy applauding that it didn’t notice that its pockets were being picked.

Banks and big business bought control of Congress, which passed a series of tax and banking laws that fostered the largest transfer of wealth in America’s history. The money went not from the rich to poor — that would be socialistic “income redistribution.” No, it went from the working class to the rich.

Today, the Tax Policy Center, a non-partisan arm of the Brookings Institution, projects that in 2011 that the top 1 percent of all wage earners will take home 18 percent of all income. The top tenth of that 1 percent will take home 8.2 percent all by itself.

Between 1979 and 2007 (before the Big Recession) the average after-tax income of the top 1 percent of the population nearly quadrupled, from $347,000 to over $1.3 million.

Things aren’t so rosy for the middle class. Median household income dropped 2.5 percent between 1999 and 2009 in inflation-adjusted terms, the Census Bureau reports. That is, unless you live in Missouri, where median household income dropped by 14.6 percent.

Here’s one our favorite class warfare facts, from this year’s “Executive Excess” study by the Institute for Policy Studies: “American workers … are taking home less in real weekly wages than they took home in the 1970s. Back in those years, precious few top executives made over 30 times what their workers made. In 2009, we calculate … CEOs of major U.S. corporations averaged 263 times the average compensation of American workers.”

Layoffs pay. The study found that the chief executive officers of the 50 firms that laid off the most workers during the recession took home an average of nearly $12 million last year — 42 percent more than the average pay of all the CEOs at S&P 500 firms.

No wonder workers are angry. No wonder they’re massing in large protest rallies.

No, wait. Those are the Tea Partiers and the Becksters.

They’re angry at federal health care reform, even though it will save them money and reduce the deficit.

They’re angry about the Wall Street bailout. Except for the fact that it was absolutely necessary because the titans of Wall Street had a gun at the head of the world economy, they should be angry.

They’re angry about the $787 billion in stimulus spending, even though it returned a fat tax break to them, saved the jobs of cops and teachers and state employees and paid unemployment compensation to the victims of the Wall Street manipulators.

Workers need to be angry, but at the right people — the ones who for 30 years have been steering ever more of the wealth of this nation into fewer and fewer hands.

Ironically, it is those plutocrats — oil and insurance company executives, big bankers and other Wall Street tycoons — who are orchestrating many of these protest rallies.

This is where labor is most effectively organized on Labor Day Weekend 2010: against the interests of working America.

LABOR DAY NO TIME TO CELEBRATE FOR EEOC WORKERS

Gabrielle Martin, president of the National Council of EEOC Locals, No. 216, AFGE, AFL-CIO, issued the following release Thursday in advance of Labor Day:

NATION CELEBRATES LABOR DAY AS EEOC LETS DOWN AMERICA’S WORKERS AND ITS OWN EMPLOYEES 

On the upcoming Labor Day Holiday, this nation will celebrate its workers.  However, workplace discrimination threatens the American dream for thousands of workers and their families.  In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) anticipates that it will receive over 100,000 charges of discrimination this year, according to its budget.  

Gabrielle Martin, President of the National Council of EEOC Locals, No. 216, AFGE/AFL-CIO, (“the Council”), which represents employees at the EEOC, says, “Labor Day is a sad reminder that EEOC, which exists to enforce laws enacted by Congress to protect workers against discrimination, is too dysfunctional to carry out its mission.”

The EEOC is facing an enormous backlog of almost a 100,000 cases.  Additionally, Martin points out, “Three new laws and record high filings have bottle-necked EEOC’s intake process.”  The Union has offered solutions, including an intake plan to get the EEOC back on course, as part of a top 10 list to the Chair.   However, Martin states, “The intake plan is still ‘under review,’ despite the need to implement by the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.”

For Martin, “Labor Day is a sore reminder that EEOC has still not done right by its employees two years after a Federal Arbitrator ruled that EEOC had willfully violated overtime laws.”  Based on the realities on the ground and EEOC’s poor results on the Government Employee Satisfaction Surveys, Martin suggests that EEOC’s help wanted ads should read:

HELP WANTED:  EEOC seeks talented, but fungible employees. Lack of benefits include:  minimal training; overwhelming caseloads and severe understaffing; restricted telecommuting.  Must be willing to work overtime without complaint or pay.  One third of your time will be spent performing your own administrative/support staff/IT functions.  Earned promotions rare and delayed.  Limited upward mobility.  Severe micromanagement.  Awards program: secret, sporadic and unfair.  Specifics for various positions -   Attorneys and Hearings Examiners:  Must be willing to pay for your own required bar dues, continuing education, and costs of attending national organization training seminars.  Demanding case loads and time constraints.   Limited paralegal, legal clerk or intern assistance.  Customer Service Reps (IIRs):  Must be willing to be overwhelmed with calls and e-mails, while remaining isolated from the office you serve.  Daily equipment failures will be standard.  Bathroom breaks will be monitored.   Mediators:  Overwhelming caseloads, limited travel funds.  Investigators:  Must be willing to spend 50% of your time in Intake while assigned more than 100 cases to investigate and extremely tight deadlines.  Support Staff and paraprofessional staff:  As endangered species, you are responsible for enough work to consume the work days of ten times the number of you. Due to overwhelming need, applications open next year.

Martin continues, “On this Labor Day, I must pay tribute to EEOC’s workers, who despite their own deplorable working conditions, work each day to try to make things better for others.”

Labor Day 2010

By the AFL-CIO

This Labor Day weekend, the AFL-CIO will be running television and radio ads celebrating the working people who are the backbone of our nation – and the power of working together for a stronger America.  You can take a look at the TV spot on our website, www.aflcio.org

We’ll be reaching people where they are on Labor Day weekend – on sports stations:  Major League Baseball games on Sunday and Monday, the Sunday NASCAR Pep Boys Auto 500 race and the Monday night opener of NCAA football, with the top-rated Boise State vs. Virginia Tech game.

The ads will remind television viewers and radio listeners that it’s working people working together who’ve always moved our country forward—making things, innovating, building our country, keeping our communities safe, strengthening the future for our children and so much more.  They are not political, but they provide a frame for the intensive grassroots political effort that will be put forth by the working women and men in AFL-CIO unions in the upcoming elections. 

Happy Labor Day!

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