Shared Sacrifice?

By Richard Thayer

Let me address a question raised recently by one of our blog’s visitors. The question concerned our current financial crisis and why unionists were unwilling to share in the sacrifice.

I can appreciate where they’re coming from and can understand how they would see this as a sacrifice that should be shared by all red-blooded, patriotic Americans. Their view of this matter is understandable since there is so much misinformation out there and a multitude of fingers are being pointed at public sector unions for having it so much better than private sector non-union members. Why should they have it so good while everyone else has to suffer?

First of all, all middle class workers-blue collar workers-whether they be union or non-union, owe whatever they do have to unions. No, you may not be making as much an hour as your non-union neighbor, but you would be making a whole lot less than you are now if it hadn’t been for unions several decades ago. Whatever you’re making now, it’s a whole lot better than what you would be getting if unions had never existed.

Do you get some sick leave at your job? If so, thank the unions. Do you work long hours? How would you like to be working 60 hours a week at minimum wage, whatever the company deemed as minimum wage? The reason you don’t is because of unions.

How would you like to work seven days a week at straight time, that straight time being $3.50 an hour? Overtime pay, what’s that? Do you get at least one day off during the week, a day of rest? If you do, thank a union member.

Much of what the American worker takes for granted today was fought for by unionists. And more than a few gave their lives so that we could have it.

In every community where there is a union, the quality of life in that community goes up, not down.

Overall, union members earn 28 percent ($198) more per week than non-union members. Hispanic union members earn 50 percent ($258) more each week than non-union Hispanics and African Americans earn 29 percent  ($168) more each week if they are union members.

Rather than pointing fingers of blame at unions demanding that their quality of life be reduced to the level of non-union members, we should be pointing those fingers at corporations and demanding that some of those obscene profits they’re making be paid out to their hard-working employees, the ones whose productivity and creativity are making those profits possible.

Were you aware that the middle class came into existence as the result of unions? Unions in this country were very big at one time, and our country prospered. There was no Great Recession in the fifties when union membership was at its highest. A recent statistic shows that as union membership has dwindled, so has the middle class. That is not a coincidence.

I can understand how someone might get the idea that unions are contributing to our financial crisis, especially if they make a steady diet of certain large, conglomerate news organizations like Fox News. I can understand how people who rely on Fox for all of their “fair and balanced” news would get the impression that the unions are the bad guys.

Let me be as clear as possible here. The reason we’re in our current predicament isn’t because of the pay and benefits disparity between union and non-union workers. The problem we now face was created by Big Business and by Wall Street. Remember the Wall Street debacle? Evidently a lot of people don’t. We, the taxpayers – the middle class –bailed their butts out. Remember the Big Banks, the ones that thought they were too big to fail? We, the American taxpayers, threw these jokers a life-line, preventing them from going under.

How are those folks doing today? Are the Big Banks making it okay? How are the corporations, the CEOs and the wheeler-dealers on Wall Street doing? Are they still in trouble? No, as a matter of fact they’re all doing extremely well, thank you. Big Business is producing its largest profits ever; CEOs, white collar workers and the boys and girls on Wall Street are making money hand-over-fist, and getting bonuses too.

So what part of this “shared sacrifice” thingy are they taking part in? What exactly are they doing for us, the folks who bailed them out?

Well, I guess they must be sharing in the sacrifice by saving for a rainy day. I’m almost certain that when the going really, really gets rough, when things really get desperate, they’ll return the favor and bail us out. They can do it too. They’ve got the cash. As I write this the combined multi-billion dollar corporations in this country have two trillion dollars stashed away in banks earning interest. Two trillion dollars.

When one high roller was asked by a tv news person why they weren’t using that money to create jobs, he solemnly replied, “The economy isn’t stable.”

Well, I wonder why.

The latest statistics show that just two percent of the American population possess most of the nation’s wealth. Two percent.

And, trust me, none of them are union members. Nary a one.

And I saw just last week where 400 of our country’s loyal citizens have as much money as half of the country’s population. That’s 400 individuals; they’re worth as much as roughly 155 million people in this country. Four-hundred. No union members there either.

Instead of asking what are unions doing to share the sacrifice, I think we should be asking Wall Street, the Big Banks and the Daddy Warbucks of this country what they’re doing to share in the sacrifice — other than saving up for a rainy day.

This answer isn’t  complicated. They’re doing nothing. Zip. Nada.

I think it was last year that a bill was introduced to keep the Bush tax cuts for everyone except our country’s wealthiest people–billionaires. Tax them, no one else, and we would have a tidy little sum of money over the next few years.

The bill was voted down by both Republicans and Democrats. They thought it would cause them too much hardship.

State legislators are doing the same thing locally. In Wisconsin, one of Governor Scott Walker’s first actions as governor was to approve millions of dollars in tax cuts for the state’s Big Businesses. Not small businesses, Big Business.  So, where’s their shared sacrifice? It’s the same story in other Republican states as well.

Why on earth would politicians favor millionaires and billionaires over the middle class? Guess. Because they are the ones who’ve got the money! You don’t have it. What good are you? Since Republicans, by and large, support legislation that benefits Big Business (and Big Money), Big Business returns the favor by donating money to their election and reelection campaigns. They’re all just one big happy family. And, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling a little while back, Big Business can donate as much cash as their little heart’s desire.

A recent statistic showed that out of the top 10 contributors in last year’s election, six of those 10 were Big Businesses. And four of them were unions. No one else made it into the top 10. If you donated a hundred bucks last year, you were nowhere close. Most of the money contributed by Big Business–ninety-some percent–went to Republicans. Most of the union money went to Democrats because Democrats, by and large (but not always) support middle class issues.

Even though Big Business out-spent the unions and got a lot of their people elected or re-elected, they still didn’t like the odds. Instead of six to four, like last year, they would like 10 to nothing next year. That’s why corporate-funded politicians are now as busy as little beavers stripping away unions’ collective bargaining rights and passing “right to work” laws in their states. The less power the unions have, the more power they have.

Trust me, it has nothing to do with balancing the budget.

So, that’s how it is that both union and non-union members are now sharing in the sacrifice.

Our share of the sacrifice is one-hundred percent.


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