Weekly Opinion Editorial
NO WORKER IS A VICTIM!
by Steve Fair
Labor Day is a federal holiday in the United States that is always celebrated on the first Monday in September. It began in the late 19th century (1894) and was established to recognize and honor the American labor movement(unions). Labor Day also marks the unofficial end of summer, celebrated with outings, picnics and parades.
At the height of the Industrial Revolution in America, the average worker was putting in 12-hour days seven days a week to make a living. Workers got organized, formed unions and collectively negotiated with business owners for higher wages and better working conditions. That led the rise of labor unions like the AFL-CIO, Teamsters, and United Auto Workers. The unions not only worked to get better wages and working conditions for their membership, but they got heavily involved in politics. They successfully lobbied in many states to restrict workers from opting out of a union by requiring compulsory membership. A portion of union dues were used to campaign for candidates who agreed with the unions. Rank and file membership wasn’t given the choice of whether their dues would be used for political purposes for causes and positions they disagreed with. That autocratic, tyrannical approach hurt the union’s membership. Current union membership is about 10.3% of the total workforce in the U.S., half of what it was in 1983. Three observations about labor and workers in America:
First, the wage gap is widening in the United States. Republicans don’t like to discuss it, but it’s true. Workers are not appreciated and rewarded financially as they were in years past. In a study of 300 top U.S. companies conducted by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a liberal think tank, the average CEO received $670 in compensation for every $1 the worker received. That is 4 times the disparity 40 years ago. More than a third of the companies IPS surveyed were not increasing pay to keep up with inflation for their rank-and-file workers. Clearly IPS has a liberal agenda, but the truth is the disparity between worker pay and executive has widened dramatically in the U.S.
Second, every worker is self-employed. That doesn’t mean they have their own LLC or operate their own business. It means they make a conscious choice to work for the wages they agree to upon hiring. They agree to provide a service (their labor) for a paycheck. If they want to sever that relationship, they can. If they believe they are being treated unfairly or being underpaid, they should point it out to their employer. If the boss doesn’t recognize their value, they should seek an employer that will.
Good workers should never ‘play the victim’ and blame their boss for not making enough money. Working for a company isn’t the priesthood- you can leave. A worker is worth fair wages. An employer who takes advantage of willing, loyal, honest workers by not paying them what they are worth isn’t worthy of having eager, reliable, forthright employees. Building a business on the backs of people being taken advantage of isn’t being conservative- it’s socialist.
Third, living the American dream is no guarantee. In fact, the dream in America is declining. 90% of children born in the 1940s achieved more accumulated wealth than their parents. Only 40% of children born in the 1980s are doing that. Why the decline? One reason is government regulation on lending practices that have restricted access to capital. Banks can’t take a risk on an idea and a hard worker like in the 1970s. The government has made it next to impossible to get a business loan. The primary reason Generation Xers are not doing better than their parents is many have a ‘victim’ or ‘entitlement’ mentality. Until they take personal responsibility for their financial lot in life and stop blaming somebody else, they can expect to be stuck on the merry go round of life.
Labor unions evolved because workers got fed up with being treated bad by their employers. Those workers organized and effectively changed their circumstances by not being victims or demanding entitlements. No worker is a victim. They control their own economic fate.