Three big time labor leaders—AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, AFSCME President Lee Saunders and AFT President Randi Weingarten—campaigned Monday in Cleveland on Labor Day with the Democratic ticket—Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tim Kaine.
The campaign event is another trip to always important Ohio to solidify if not add to the ticket’s current +3 point advantage over Donald Trump, that can set up positive down-ballot results, especially for Ted Strickland, a former Democratic governor of Ohio running to unseat incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R).
In coordinated action, Hillary for Ohio released a new video celebrating working people across the country. The video features Brian, a Dayton resident, lifelong General Motors auto worker, and proud UAW International Union member. Last year, Donald Trump said that it didn’t matter whether or not we saved the auto industry – “either way would have been acceptable.”
The political gathering in northern Ohio on Monday comes at an especially good time, when the discussion turns to labor issues as they do on Labor Day. On this one day when workers are extolled for their hard work good values and virtue, it’s important to understand the viewpoint of early labor leaders who tried to harness workers to organize for their own best interests.
The president of the United Automobile Workers in 1970, Walter Reuther, made a declarative statement then about what workers can do when they have a mind to that today’s workers should relearn: “There is no power in the world that can stop the forward march of free men and women when they are joined in the solidarity of human brotherhood.”
A pioneering labor leader that predated Reuther and the auto workers was Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor. Gompers understood that power a united workforce. “Where trade unions are most firmly organized, there are the rights of the people most respected,” he said.
That hard-won history is lost on Ohio’s current leadership, whose story of Ohio’s turnaround under Gov. John Kasich, going from broken to prosperous, as told by the governor himself at many town hall meetings along his long road to losing all but one state contest, is cast as…well, a miracle.
Unions Raise All Workers
The release of a new report from the Economic Policy Institute [EPI] shows just how not much of a miracle boosting wages turned out to be for Ohio’s CEO-style and term-limited governor. The report makes a case for how much more nonunion private-sector workers, the gold standard for Lehman Brother governors like Mr. Kasich, would have earned in 2013 had private-sector union membership remained at 1979 levels.
What isn’t up for debate is the inconvenient fact that working-age Ohioans now live more precarious, long-term unemployment is real, and many are trapped in one or more jobs to make ends meet that pay less compared to previous paychecks.
From the report: “Nonunion workers benefit from a strong union presence in their labor market in many ways. Strong unions set pay and benefits standards that nonunion employers follow. Those employers may raise pay for some workers to forestall an organizing drive, which leads to an upward adjustment in wages of workers above them, to maintain relative pay differentials (similar to the effects of minimum-wage increases).”
Widely respected as a research group that advocates on behalf of low-and middle-income workers, EPI said that for men, wages would have been 5 percent higher, an average of $2,704 annually, and those with less education would have seen greater impact, the Dayton Daily News reported.
Non-union men with a high school diploma or less, the demographic most likely to be unionized, the report notes, would have seen 9 percent higher wages, or an average of about $3,172 annually, had union membership in similar industries and regions remained at 1979 levels, the report notes.
Some studies have shown collective bargaining bolsters wages of all workers, regardless of union status, by establishing industry standards or encouraging nonunion employers to raise pay to discourage their workers from organizing. The weakness of unions today has markedly reduced that wage effect, to as much as one-half of what it was in the late 1970s, the report says.
Women, who were far less likely to be unionized than men in the 1970s the report observes, would have seen 2 or 3 percent higher pay, or $718 annually for full-time work, had unions maintained their power over the decades.
“In the debates over the causes of wage stagnation, the decline in union power has not received nearly as much attention as globalization, technological change, and the slowdown in Americans’ educational attainment,” the report claims.
Union membership among private-sector men has declined from 34 percent in the late 1970s to 10 percent in 2013. Among women, it fell from 16 percent to 10 percent, EPI found. During that time, inflation-adjusted wages have declined 13 percent for non-unionized private-sector men with only a high school diploma or less, and 11 percent among those with some college but no degree.
Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters and author of a new report on working Ohio, summed up the situation faced by many workers today this way: “If you lost a manufacturing job, often what’s available to you now is just not as good as what you once had. So a lot of these men just look for awhile, and then they just kind of decide to retire early, take care of the grandkids, or something other than going back to work.”
Some of Hanauer’s key findings are that Ohio’s fastest-growing sectors and most common jobs are low wage. Of the 13 most common occupations, only two pay more than 200 percent of the official poverty line for a family of three. Nine of these most full-time, year-round common jobs pay less than $30,000.
Labor Reporting Gone
It’s probably fair to say that no Ohio newspaper has a dedicated labor beat reporter, even though all their business sections routinely tout and adore CEOs and the leadership auras they exude even though they may treat their workers like heat and light as costs to be contained. What’s good for the company today is not necessarily for for the company’s workforce. The common worker gets no such cheer leading, so when Labor Day does arrive, it’s not easy to find reporting on how much better workers could be doing, as they did in during the Eisenhower years when unionization was high and tax rates were even higher, if union membership across the board were as high today as it once was.
The national labor leaders who will stump for Clinton and Kaine today in Ohio wouldn’t be caught dead doing the same thing for Donald Trump, whose documented business practice of hiring cheap foreign laborers, stiffing vendors and backtracking on deals once made, has garnered precious little space when compared to the acres of space devoted to Mrs. Clinton’s email situation, for example, or all the legal actions of the Clinton Global Foundation that have yet to turn up activities that are illegal.
Kasich Ignores Role Of Unions On Labor Day
When John Kasich ran for governor of Ohio the first time in 2010, he made no mention of his intention to back and push a bill that would gut collective bargaining for public sector union workers. Senate Bill 5, passed without much ado by a right-wing Republican legislature and signed into law by Kasich soon after he was sworn-in, angered unions workers and allied friends and family enough that the bill was nullified by a statewide vote that embarrassed Gov. Kasich so much that the professional performance politician knew enough not to try the same play again, especially in advance of his reelection to his high office.
Republican sources have mused that Kasich would have lost by a half-million votes had he campaigned on pushing a bill like SB 5. Kasich was quiet on his zeal to overturn long-held collective bargaining negotiations, even though he did show his hostility during the election toward public teacher unions.
Gov. Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor issued a resolution acknowledging Labor Day, and encouraged all Ohioans to join in recognizing the achievements of the state’s working men and women.
“Ohioans owe a debt of gratitude to the previous generations of men and women who worked with an unwavering commitment to create prosperity and stability, and whose hard work sustained our state in times of uncertainty and hardship. We, in turn, owe it to future generations of Ohio workers to create a state in which their hard work can be rewarded and in which they and their families can succeed,” the governor’s statement said, avoiding mentioning the tremendous role unions once played in conquering uncertainty and hardship, which included advancing workplace rights.
A review of Gov. Kasich’s record over nearly six years in office show he’s overseen a reduction in the kind and quality of jobs created on his watch. As a state, Ohio’s current median income is thousands below that from years past. The median household numbers since 2000 tell a tale of decline with Ohio declining $9,363, or 16.1 percent, to $48,849. Ohio’s plunge, according to a report at Ohio.com, was second largest in the nation, falling from 19th-highest median income to 35th; from only 2.5 percent below the national median to 8.7 percent below.
John Kasich pounded Ted Strickland for his inability to fend off the Great Recession of 2007-2009, but the burden of being elected in 2006, as Mr. Strickland was, was to inherit a state broken from 12 years of uninterrupted Republican rule of all statewide and the General Assembly. The former congressman inherited a really broken state, then got T-boned by the second biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression, which gave Republican legislative leaders the opening to talk about Ohio’s decline under the Strickland administration. A glance at unemployment rates over Strickland’s one-term shows the man from Duck Run had Ohio on the road to recovery, and handed citizen John Kasich a billion dollars in revenue and tens of thousands of jobs Kasich crows that his administration created.
Since 2000, Ohio has lost 442,958 private-sector jobs in 61 of 88 counties. In a report aided by David Knox, a contributor to Plunderbund from time to time, a majority of Ohio’s new jobs are in the service sector — 144,000 since 2000, with paychecks that are a third less than factory workers. Those jobs include discount stores, low-wage health-care workers and call centers.
As the report at Ohio.com called “A state of decline: Ohio economy has taken a 15-year slide” notes, government jobs are a factor in Ohio’s economic health. Gov. Kasich prides himself on saying how many fewer state employees are working on his watch. With the exception of Franklin County, home of the state capital Columbus, there was widespread loss of government jobs following Gov. Kasich’s drive to reduce aid to local governments and schools by billions after the 2008-09 recession. from 2007 to 2015, Ohio lost 55,000 government jobs.
Over the same time, only 10 Ohio counties saw median household income rise. Private-sector growth since 2010 masks a significant drop in public-sector jobs throughout the state. To top it all off, Ohio’s gross domestic product — its total value of goods and services — slipped from about 4 percent of the national GDP in 2000 to 3.5 percent in 2014, the latest year available.
Fair And Balanced
For fair and balanced reporting, the views of the Buckeye Institute, a pro-business group, are offered to show the abyss between what conservatives and progressives believe are solutions to prosperity for all. Joe Nichols, a policy analyst with the Buckeye Institute in Columbus, said that a more educated work force is good. But he trashed other recommendations from Policy Matters Ohio as unworkable.
“All of these solutions have been tried before, and none of them work,” Mr. Nichols said, The Toledo Blade reported. Mr. Nichols says Ohio’s regulatory burden on businesses needs to be reduced and that stronger labor unions “make it harder to get jobs” in some instances.
In sync with Gov. Kasich and Sen. Rob Portman, who hopes to win a second term this year, Mr. Nichols said cutting government is the best way to create jobs because that would put money back into the private sector. “There is a lot of pork spending on things the state of Ohio doesn’t need to be doing,” he said, the Blade reported.
On the flip side comes a statement today by former Gov. Ted Strickland, who hopes to unseat Sen. Portman, on the significance of Labor Day.
“Today we should all join in thanking and celebrating Ohio’s working men and women who are the true backbone of our economy. It’s also a day to reaffirm our commitment to a basic, but important American idea –– if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to get a good job with fair pay, and build a good life for yourself. But for too many, this American Dream is feeling out of reach. That’s why in the Senate I will continue to fight with all of my heart for Ohio’s working families. Whether the challenge is stopping bad trade deals that are sending our jobs overseas, working to raise wages, or protecting the right of workers to form unions and bargain together, I will always stand up for Ohioans who actually work for a living – that’s where I’m from, that’s who I care about and that’s who I’ll always put first.”
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