Since 1887, America has celebrated Labor Day on the first Monday in September, a day chosen by President Grover Cleveland from Ohio. The purpose of Labor Day is to honor the American labor movement, which has had to overcome daunting hurdles along the way, including organized violence against workers uniting, to pursue and obtain a better life for themselves and their families through better and safer working conditions, higher wages and the right to bargain collectively
A new report released on the eve of Labor Day, produced by a Cleveland-based economic research group, shows the plight of workers in Ohio today has undergone a big change for the worse. Workers have generally encountered powerful encounter forces that have devalued the value of their labor, not rewarded them for productivity gains, stalled wage growth at the expense of other corporate goals like shareholder value, even as corporations enjoy a golden age of record profits while their tax rates fall.
Despite five years of recovery, sustained job growth, and reductions in the number of unemployed workers, Americans are not convinced that the economy is improving, and Ohio workers can bear witness to that reality.
As Republican Gov. John R. Kasich asks voters to rehire him for a second term, what he’s done for workers, especially unionized workers, should cause Buckeye voters to think twice. The share of Ohioans that is working is at a 34-year low, “worse than in any year since we’ve been tracking it,” according to a new report from Policy Matters Ohio. Of Ohio’s 12 most common occupations, 11 pay too little to get a family of three above 150 percent of the poverty line—the most common Ohio job pays just $18,300 a year.
As a group, PMO says, “The bottom 99 percent of us now make less each year than the bottom 99 percent of a generation ago in Ohio.” The top 1 percent makes 70 percent more. Meanwhile, median hourly wages have fallen over the past generation, while hourly productivity is up 65 percent.
Ohio under Gov. Kasich, whose name is on the list of GOP hopefuls ready to run for the White House in 2016, workers, especially government workers including police, firefighters, teachers and nurses, have fared poorly since he took office in 2011.
Known for his devotion to the private sector, Gov. Kasich pushed hard for a bill early in his first term that would have torn asunder 40 years of collective bargaining rights of public union workers. To his great chagrin, Ohio voters slapped his bill down by a nearly 2-1 margin three years ago.
As of Sunday morning, the day prior to the nation’s official holiday, the governor’s web page offered no release or resolution celebrating Labor Day.