Respecting the Dignity of Labor
In her interview with Bill Moyers, lifelong activist Grace Lee Boggs, a champion of labor and civil rights, says:
Well just don't expect the system to catch up, the system is part of the system! What I think is that, not since the 30s have American have the American people, the ordinary Americans faced such uncertainty with regard to the economic system. In the 30s, what we did, was we confronted management and were able, thereby to gain many advantages, particularly to gain a respect for the dignity of labor. That's no longer possible today, because of the ability of corporations to fly all over the place and begin setting up all this outsourcing. So, we're gonna have people are finding other ways to regain control over the way they make their living.
This Labor Day the news is filled with coverage of gas prices, the home loan meltdown and college costs. Take stock of the state of American labor and the American dream through the BILL MOYERS JOURNAL stories below and tell us what you think.
In June, Bill Moyers talked with Andy Stern, the President of Service Employees International Union, the fastest growing union in the nation about the challenges facing unions in the 21st century:
"Well, the good news is this isn't Rwanda or Darfur or some impoverished country. This is the greatest country on earth with the greatest amount of wealth. The problem isn't about the wealth. It's about distribution. And the truth is we are seeing America's growing apart instead of growing together. Because for all this wealth, for the last five years according to the Census Bureau, American workers have not seen a raise, the longest period of economic stagnation in the history of our country. That is not the future. We have to figure a better way to share in the wealth of a successful society."-- Andy Stern
In August, Bill Moyers talked with Barbara Ehrenreich who has been writing about issues of inequality in America for years as one of our foremost independent journalists. When she reports, Ehreneich steps into the real-life shoes of the people she's writing about. For the bestselling book, NICKEL AND DIMED, Barbara Ehrenreich spent months working as a waitress, a cleaning woman, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk, among other low-wage jobs. And tried to make ends meet for $7 an hour.
"I didn't start the class war that's being gone on here. The class war that's been coming from the side of the extremely wealthy. Iit's been happening for a while. But it's a class war which has been very one-sided. Unions are weak in our country. They should be leading, you know, the charge against this. But the squeezing of people on wages and then on benefits and that's a big thing in the middle class too, you know, that your health insurance package shrinks, your pension is gone. College tuitions are rising. You know, that kind of squeeze...this has not been enough fight back. " - Barbara Ehrenreich
...AND AMERICAN CEOS
In June, THE JOURNAL took a look at high-flying airline executives. Northwest Airlines dodged the bankruptcy bullet. But while a $1.4 billion a year cut in labor expenses has ensured lower costs for Northwest, why are airline executives still flying high on salaries, stock options and benefits while workers and retirees see cuts in pay and compensation?
"Let me tell you in 1980 a CEO made 40 times the average worker; Today they make about 400 times. This is wrong."
- Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
"You know, we know what's right. And when the rest of society catches on that this isn't just about your flight attendant, it's about your daughter. And it's about your son. And it's about what kind of life and fairness and compensation you expect for your children that they will see that this is everyone's fight. This is not about a flight attendant contract, or a pilot contract or a mechanic contract. It's not any more even about the money. It's about what's right in our culture. What's right?"
- Kate Day, flight attendant
THE COMING MORTAGE CRISIS?
The crisis in the mortgage market has only worsened since late June when Bill Moyers talked with financial writer Gretchen Morgenson., who covers the financial world for the NEW YORK TIMES. A former stockbroker, she's now a columnist and assistant business and financial editor at the Times. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for her trenchant and incisive coverage of Wall Street. Find out what's behind the meltdown.
"And it's been a policy of the government to try to encourage home ownership. And under-- with this mania, with the subprime loans that were going on, we did reach a peak in home ownership of 69 percent...The highest in history. But I would ask you, 'What's the good of getting people into a home if they can't afford it and they're then going to have to go into foreclosure?' It goes back to the idea of suitability. Are these loans suitable to the people that you're giving them to? Are these investments suitable to the investors who are buying them? There seem to have been a breakdown in that question." -Gretchen Morgenson
TRADE AND LABOR
The JOURNAL has covered the ins and outs of Congressional negotiations on trade deals in recent months -- taking a look at what trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA mean for American workers and consumers.
Lori Wallach is Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.
"Trade doesn't affect the total number of jobs in the economy. It affects the kinds of jobs." - Lori Wallach
John R. MacArthur is the author of THE SELLING OF 'FREE TRADE': NAFTA, WASHINGTON, AND THE SUBVERSION OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY.
"I realize that every time somebody says, 'We're helping the poor' or 'We're helping the foreigners' or 'the poor foreigners,' what they really mean is, 'We're going to exploit the hell out of them. This is a way we're going to lock in cheap labor in any country you can think of and exploit them.' And it's a union killing movement in the United States. You cannot form an union in the United States anymore without risking your plant being closed, sent overseas, or other kinds of intimidation. That's why union membership has now fallen to eight percent of the workforce." - John R. MacArthur