Day after Labor Day labor less for too many

Unions are a necessary counterweight to corporate interests.

Many individuals didn’t enjoy the Labor Day weekend. Not because they had to return to work on Tuesday, but because they did not. Eight million were unemployed at the end of August. Furthermore, U.S. workers have suffered not only in opportunity, but in workplace conditions and health or other benefits as well. For many, the recent Labor Day holiday was labor less and unhappy.

President George W. Bush’s record elicits comparison of him to depression-era President Herbert Hoover. Bush’s numbers are dismal from the workers’ perspective. To be fair, the blame cannot be placed only on Bush. The economy is much too complicated.

But Bush is responsible for advocating policies that hurt U.S. workers. More than 6 million individuals will lose overtime pay thanks to recent changes by the Bush administration to the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which fights for workplace safety, has had its funding drastically cut. Wages are not keeping pace with increasing costs in housing, health care and inflation. Median household income has fallen by 3.4 percent over 2002 and 2003.

Bush has also failed to support job-creation programs and education opportunities by underfunding them or only offering passive support. The feeling among the general public parallels the bleak outlook, as evidenced by a Pew Research Center survey showing 66 percent of Americans say the economy is in poor or fair shape.

There are two ways U.S. workers can effectively push for change. The first is by participating in the political process: voting, writing to your elected representatives, etc. The second is by joining a union. This board has at times disagreed with unions, but in general, unions are a necessary counterweight to corporate interests.

Of the workers in the private sector, only 8.2 percent are members of a union. Yet, for these unionized workers the benefits are clear. They earn 26 percent more than non-union workers, more than 75 percent have health benefits and 70 percent have a pension, compared to only 14 percent of non union workers who have pensions.

Non unionized workers and poor labor policy is a combination that doesn’t work.