Labor’s Future

June 13, 2012
By Harry Kelber

Right now, there are some 20 million people unemployed, including those who are on part-time jobs and others who have given up looking for work in a tight labor market.

Optimistic pundits and economists insist that the economy is improving and that before long, there will be lots of jobs as employers begin hiring. But the facts prove otherwise. Only 69,000 jobs in private industry were created in May, and with other statistics, reveal that the recession is far from over. And consider that about 250,000 people are entering the workforce every month, according to reports

Nor is that all. Employers are loath to hire new people as long as they can get their current employees to work harder for less. There are tens of thousands of good-paying U.S. jobs that are being outsourced overseas to low-wage countries, like China and India.

What are the AFL-CIO and progressive organizations doing about this severe crisis for millions of people? Well, they are offering a variety of ideas to create and save jobs. They are doing a lot of talking about the problem. But the millions of jobless still remain desperate and impoverished, waiting in vain for good things to happen in Washington.

It is difficult for fully-employed people to imagine what it must mean to a working class family not to have a paycheck for 27 weeks or more? One can only imagine the psychological suffering that parents and children endure in trying to cope with their deplorable situation.

Yet, Congress and the White House have not dealt with the need for massive public works projects, like under the New Deal of the 1930s, where there were fewer resources available.

Unless the jobs problem is significantly solved, the United States, the richest country in the world, will develop an underclass of people. Homelessness will increase, and so, inevitably, will violence and crime. Employers will continue to cut wages and benefits, pushing workers into a “race to the bottom.” There will be an obvious shrinking in organized labor’s membership and power.

It should be clear that the top priority of unions of the future is to fight for huge public works jobs for the unemployed. We poured billions into West Germany to rebuild the country after World War II. And think of the billions we have been spending in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,

Can we do less for millions of unemployed Americans?

June 13, 2012

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