On Labor Day, John McCain is mired in controversy over his pick of Sarah Palin and the Republican Convention is in turmoil over how to handle the natural and PR disaster of Gustav. But there's another threat to the GOP being unveiled today: workers and labor advocates reminding the public -- and progressives -- of the threat McCain's free-market policies pose to working families and labor rights.
He's opposed everything from raising the minimum wage to extending unemployment insurance to protecting workplace health. Most critically, he's a strong opponent of the Employee Free Choice Act that allows workers to organize a union without getting fired and punishes companies that break the law with stiff penalties -- unlike today's current weak laws.
Indeed, Obama, although strongly pro-union, is also being reminded by union leaders how much he needs their help in reaching out to the white working-class voters seen as critical to helping him win a close election.
Now supporters of workers rights and economic fairness are reminding progressives everywhere what's at stake in this election, and offering several ways for the rest of us to "Take Back Labor Day" on this opening day of the Republican Convention. For sheer enjoyment, check out the live rock, folk and country festival being offered streaming live from Minneapolis, starting at 3 p.m., at SEIU's website, sponsored by SEIU this afternoon and evening. Stars include:
Allison Moorer is an Academy Award and Grammy Award nominated singer
songwriter whose 2008 album, Mockingbird, was released to critical
-- Billy Bragg, a British rocker and Grammy-nominated folk musician set
new music to unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics, recorded with Wilco.
-- Mos Def is an actor and Grammy-nominated musician most recently seen
alongside Jack Black in the film, Be Kind Rewind. With 5 rap albums,
he is renowned for popularizing Hip-Hop that stresses socially
-- Steve Earle's Washington Square Serenade in 2007 earned him his second Grammy.
And one non-partisan group that's not endorsing any candidate, Workplace Fairness, is nonetheless launching a special event group blog that includes such experts as Steven Greenhouse of The New York Times at their new blog, Today's Workplace. Executive Director Paula Brantner points out:
At Workplace Fairness, we've assembled some of the best and brightest minds this Labor Day who can tackle what the holiday really means-what workers should be thinking about right now, when wages are stagnant, the housing market is unstable, and economic fears are weighing heavily on our minds. As Steven Greenhouse (who will be joining this conversation) points out in his new book, The Big Squeeze:
"A profound shift has left a broad swath of the American workforce on a lower plane than in decades past, with health coverage, pension benefits, job security, workloads, stress levels, and often wages growing worse for millions of workers. That the American worker faces this squeeze in the early years of this century is particularly troubling because the squeeze has occurred while the economy, corporate profits, and worker productivity have all been growing robustly. In recent years, a disconcerting disconnect has emerged, with corporate profits soaring while workers' wages stagnated."
It's a trying time for workers. And in case you haven't noticed, it's an election year. While as a nonprofit organization, we cannot tell you who to vote for, we can tell you that it's very important to pay attention to what all of the candidates are saying about the economy, jobs, and the importance of workers vs. big business. If you're either currently -- or a paycheck away -- from experiencing what Greenhouse describes, your vote in November is a very real decision about what kind of future you want to have, for yourself and your families. We hope this conversation will give you the kind of information you need to make that choice.
The AFL-CIO is also promoting various activist organizing tools and events on Labor Day to help Americans start fighting for economic justice and workers' rights.
As the GOP pretends to care about working families and the middle-class, starting at today's convention, Labor Day should be the starting point for progressives, whether union members or not, to Take Back Labor Day -- and America -- for the benefit of most of our citizens. We deserve a voice as much as the pro-corporate business interests and fanatical evangelicals who make up the core of the GOP's most vocal supporters.
UPDATE: You can sign a petition for the Employee Free Choice Act and see a new TV ad campaign here: