Protesters Call Reagan’s Induction Into Labor Hall Of Honor A Shame

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

"What’s a crying shame? Ronald Reagan in the hall of fame!” chanted two dozen American Federation of Government Employee (AFGE) members and supporters on an impromptu picket line March 1 outside the U.S. Labor Department.

The picketers braved wind and rain to protest the former Republican president’s induction into the Hall of Honor alongside labor giants like Frances Perkins, FDR’s Labor Secretary and the first female Cabinet member, and Cesar Chavez, the legendary United Farm Workers co-founder and leader.

“Reagan was a disgrace,” said one Department of Labor employee. “The union movement suffered because of him.” “What he did to worker safety and health standards was abysmal,” said another.

Protesters took turns leading chants, and one AFGE member even impersonated the former president, asking GOP Trump administration Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to “take my name off this wall!”

DOL political appointees named Reagan to the hall, which is not to be confused with Labor’s Hall of Fame elsewhere. The citation conveniently mentioned Reagan’s presidency of the Screen Actors Guild, where he played two prominent roles. One was getting good contracts for SAG members. The other was “singing” about alleged Communists in the entertainment industry during the witch-hunting McCarthy era. His plaque cites only the first.

It also does not mention Reagan is known for firing the Air Traffic Controllers in 1981 after they struck over unsafe work conditions. The PATCO strike left up to 14,000 people without jobs and, more importantly, gave a green light to corporate chieftains to declare war upon workers and unions, which they have waged ever since.

All that prompted former Obama administration Occupational Safety and Health Administration Deputy Secretary Jordan Barab, a fiormer union safety and health official, to include the Reagan induction in what he called “Kill the Labor Movement Week,” following the Feb. 26 U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the Janus case, which would make every state and local government worker a potential “free rider.”

“Inducting Reagan into the Labor Hall of Honor is equivalent to inducting Colonel Sanders into the Poultry Hall of Honor,” Barab said.

“An e-mail from Bryan Slater, DOL’s Assistant Secretary for Administration, inviting all DOL employees to attend the ceremony,” cites Reagan’s SAG leadership, Barab noted. “Not one mention of fired air traffic controllers, nor any fond memories of destroying OSHA’s cotton dust publications because the cover displayed a photo of a worker with brown lung disease, nor any mention of Reagan devastating OSHA’s enforcement program.”  

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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