“You may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, or you may have a democracy — but you cannot have both.”
— Justice Louis Brandeis
The greatness of our country is built by the labors of many, not by the fortunes of a few.
Therefore, as Americans, we believe our economy should serve the needs of our people — not the other way around. And as Americans, we believe that all of our children deserve a fair shot at achieving the American Dream — and not just the children of the wealthy few.
It is time to remember so that we might return to our true selves.
The first Labor Day Parade in The United States was held on September 5, 1882 in New York City.
On their signs, the workers called for “Less Work and More Pay,” an eight-hour workday, and a prohibition on the use of convict labor.
In the late 1800s, many Americans toiled 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Their hands were hard, and dirty, and worn from tough, physical work at low-paying jobs. In those days, our children worked too, on farms and in factories and mines. Conditions were harsh and dangerous. The loss of fingers and limbs was common. Many men, women, and children routinely lost their lives at workplaces.
But every economy is the product of political choices. And our laws — the laws which govern fair play and decent wages, the laws which make for an inclusive economy — were about to be changed by the demands of a growing American middle class.
In those days, America had the largest labor movement in the world. And as a result, America was soon to achieve the largest and fastest-growing middle class in the world.
The two are causally connected.
In fact, the genius of our American experiment — the genius that has earned us the global nickname of, “The Land of Opportunity” — is our historic understanding that a stronger middle class is the cause of economic growth not merely its by-product. A stronger middle class is also the cause of greater economic opportunity for all. And a stronger middle class should be the goal, the reference, and the fruit of every political decision we make about the rules governing fair play in our economy.
Today in America, after a prolonged and deep recession, we have achieved 94 consecutive months of steady job creation as a nation. But after all of the hard work begun under the leadership of Barrack Obama to speed our nation’s economic recovery, these stubborn truths remain.
The super-rich have never been richer.
The stock market has never been higher.
Corporations have never been more profitable.
And yet, average real wages for American workers continue to flatline or decline? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, average real wages declined 0.4% in July. That’s a decline from $10.78/hr last July to $10.76/hr this July.
It’s not what other nations are doing to us, it’s what we are not doing for ourselves. As a country, we have stopped raising the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation. We suspended the rules which for decades required employers to pay overtime pay for overtime work. In state after state, we have made it harder for people to join labor unions to bargain for better wages. We continue to subsidize low wages with public benefits like Medicaid and Food Stamps.
What good is it for our nation to see its stock market rise but the livings of its people decline?
Truth is truth. And the truth is trickle-down economics doesn’t work. It never has, and it never will.
Have you ever seen a stalk of corn grow from the tassel down???
An inclusive economy is grown from the middle out and from the middle up. A truly American economy — an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead — is governed by rules of fair play; and it is fueled by the hard work and spending of individual moms and dads all across this land.
Donald Trump has said, and his policies reflect his belief, that “American wages are too high.” Most Americans would strongly disagree. His tax cuts designed to grossly benefit large corporations and the super-wealthy are making income inequality worse. They are making our nation weaker. And by foreclosing our ability to make national investments in the well-being of our people, they are making healthcare and college education more expensive.
What Americans need is not a return to the era of child labor, seven day work weeks, and lower pay for all — far from it.
What Americans need is a new Bill of Rights for American Workers in the 21st Century.
Among these rights:
- The Right To Earn A Living Wage.
- The Right To Join A Labor Union and Bargain Collectively For Better Wages.
- The Right To Balance Work And Family — which means paid sick leave, paid family leave, and the right to a predictable weekly schedule.
- The Right To Full-Time Work.
- The Right To Overtime Pay For Overtime Work.
- The Right To Retire In Dignity, Not Poverty.
- The Right To Equal Pay For Equal Work — because when women succeed, America succeeds.
- The Right To Affordable Health Care.
- The Right To A Quality Public Education And Debt-Free College.
- The Right To Read Trade Deals Before Our Congress Votes On Them.
America is the greatest job-generating and opportunity-expanding nation ever brought forth on this planet. It is time to return to our true selves.
We have the ability to re-imagine the future of work in this Third Industrial Revolution. We have the ability to strike a healthier balance between family and work. But if rising standards of living is what we all want, then we must restore the proper practice of American capitalism. We must restore a more holistic system of checks, balances, and economic fair play which allows everyone in our country who works hard to get ahead. A system that safe-guards against poverty wages. A system that levels the playing field so pay and wages go up over time, and not down.
The more our workers earn, the more our workers spend and the more inclusively our entire economy grows. In fact, our Republic has no justification for being unless we are making strides in every generation to become a more genuine democracy — socially, politically, and economically.
This, We Believe.