As we move toward celebration of another Labor Day, Americans are faced with a number of distressing trends within the political economy as well as our political culture.
These are tough times for workers, and unionized workers in particular. Jobs are increasingly scarce as corporations continue to move their manufacturing outside of the United States. Manufacturing jobs have plummeted over the past several decades, retail jobs remain flat, and the only area where job growth is evident is in the fast-food service industry. In this situation, corporations have mopped up: a readily available reservoir of unemployed labor; those who have jobs being required to do more in order to keep those jobs; and record corporate profits of which workers have seen not a dime. Rather than put profits (surplus labor) back into the pockets of workers who create the profits, corporations have found it increasingly more profitable to invest in cheap labor abroad. With hundreds of job applicants lined up out the door, corporations have refrained from paying their workers a just wage and have 'budged' only when workers have organized. This is why the fast-food service workers' protests and strikes are so significant. For it is only through workers' demands that wages will be uplifted. Corporations won't budge unless they are pushed. And organized labor has learned that usually one workers isn't enough to push effectively; rather, a collective of workers is necessary.
The corporate media, which operates with the same values as most corporations, has been no friend to labor. The media's response to the media-manufactured 'public worker crisis' is a case in point. Profits are skyrocketing for corporations, yet they have city, local and state govts by the short and curlies. "Let us operate in your city/county/state virtually tax free," they tell us, "or we will move our operation to another city/county/state." So, without corporate taxes, govts don't have the revenue stream they need in order to pay their employees a fair wage. Public workers suffer as a consequence of this starvation policy, and thus so do all other workers. Look at stagnant earnings/assets among the working classes over the past 35 years; and then look at steep rise in corporate profits.
There are some soft-headed ones out there who claim that govts' declining revenue streams are a matter of public workers wanting too much. This is a laughable claim, and only a minority of Americans believe it; yet it gets played time and again on Fox, Rush, and the rest of corporate media. Meanwhile, corporate actions go largely unnoticed, out of sight, out of mind, as corporate media does not present news that sheds light on how America is in the extortionary grip of large capital. (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, Newscorp do not report critically on themselves; nor do they report critically on other corporations whose interests are interstitched with those of the corporate media.) Since a substantial minority of right wing dimwits believe reality is what is presented in the news, they're disinclined to view corporate capital with a critical eye. Corporations are only too happy to perpetuate 'dumb and dumber' amongst the populace.
Meanwhile, we become more and more like China. And what is really pretty pathetic is that there are members of the working class, Fox news worshippers, who think that what is good for corporations is good for America's working people. And this despite capital's movement from minimum wage states to states that have effectively abolished minimum wage; capital's movement from the US to foreign soil. Corporations do this for profit. All this makes it more difficult for govts to operate or for workers to earn the kinds of wages they deserve.
As an ideological ruse, capital has funneled tens of millions of dollars into the media propaganda machine, with some success. We see this with the Tea Party movement which consists inordinately of low-educated workers who are unable to sort notions of patriotism from justice. Following in lock-step with the corporate media, the soft-headed ones yack about America being founded and perpetuated by individuals. Poorly educated, these gripers seem to have no conception of this nation's history.
America is and always has been founded on the back of America's workers. Indentured servants in the Northeast, slaves in the South, children in the coalmines of Appalachia, Chinese immigrants in the Northwest, German immigrant migrant workers in the Southwest. America is America because it has been built by the laboring masses.
Many of these workers organized, formed unions, and agitated for substantial gains for the working classes: child labor laws; discrimination laws; minimum wage; health and safety laws. None of these would have occurred without labor's demands.
Today, capital continues to invest millions, if not billions, on keeping the labor movement weak and voiceless. Reputed studies show that the increase of Walmarts, (to name but one example, but probably corporate America's new prototype), comes with the high cost of numerous lost jobs wherever the new stores appear. And as hundreds of thousands find themselves in Walmart's employ, so America's workers are expected to pick up the tab as their taxes go to food stamps for Walmart's severely underpaid workers.
Today, as has always been the case, working Americans' best future hope lies with organized labor. Corporations will not pay a living wage unless they are forced to by wage-earners who demand the right to earn a wage that reflects the profits their work contributes to any and all companies. Next time you purchase something, whether it be an auto or a mere hamburger at one of the flourishing fast-food chains, try to remember that that item you've purchased is congealed labor; it contains American workers' labor, their sweat and blood. But this fails to be recognized by corporations; rather than giving to workers that which is justly owed to them, they siphon off ungodly profit that benefits no one except perhaps themselves and their own progeny.