Labor Day 2020- Ernie Fazio
As I was typing these words I looked down at my hands pecking away at the keyboard it occurred to me, that these hands are capable of creating wealth. The skills of these hands and the brains of all who work are the source of all of our wealth. The portent of that realization is profound.
It begs major questions about the way that society values our work.
But these days the person on the scaffold , the person operating the drill press, the scribe who is writing the book, the grocery store clerk, and the hospital employee is undervalued and that is a threat to a democratic society. Anyone who works a 40 hour week and has a steady employment should be able to afford a place to live, feed his family, educate his children and take a vacation.
Under the administration of Franklin Roosevelt laws were put on the books to protect the workers. FDR saw the effects of runaway power of the corporations. Then as now, the financial power was in the hands of too few. He was also convinced that the concentration of financial wealth was responsible for “The Great Depression” The theory being that when there is a financial contraction there is no distributed pool of wealth in the hands of the ordinary citizen to keep the economy going.
The Wagner Act was the major legislation that gave legitimacy to the labor movement and it included the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) It became a powerful tool to right some of the inequities that existed in 1929. That legislation gave rise to the robust economy that emerged for many years after its passage.
Unfortunately, ever since then, and especially since the 1980’s administration after administration has weakened the power of labor. This administration installed an anti-labor lobbyist as Secretary of Labor. As labor grew weaker, income inequality grew more pronounced. The result of having weak labor put us in a situation now that was similar to 1929. Union membership today is lower than it has been in the last 50 years, and the people are poorer.
When the Covid 19 pandemic paralyzed the economy it took no time at all to trash it because the population had so little reserves to fall back on. When a large portion of the citizens have no savings it does not take much to cause economic calamity
The lesson we should have learned is that without the power to negotiate we cannot look forward to equity in the distribution of wealth. Unions provide that avenue. We cannot, and should not rely on government to distribute the benefits of a capitalist society. A minimum wage law is useful, but it is not the answer.
What is the Wagner Act?
The Wagner Act, also known as the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, prohibits employers in the private sector from engaging in unfair labor practices and gives employees the right to establish labor unions, conduct strikes and negotiate benefits, working conditions and compensation.