Labor Brought an End to the Shutdown

Richard Cucarese

Richard Cucarese Rapid Response Coordinator, USW Local 4889

With the outlook growing bleaker by the minute for over 800,000 Federal Employees who remained furloughed or deemed essential and working without pay for weeks, a rare sense of elation occurred, if albeit temporarily when the U.S. Government opened for business again on January 25th after the longest shutdown on record.

And although a few media outlets gave coverage to the plight of AFGE members and their valiant efforts to flood Congressional phone lines and the streets of Washington D.C. with their Labor allies, it fell far short of the expanded coverage given to members of Congress who gregariously championed their paltry efforts in front of the spotlights glare.

Although Speaker Pelosi was the face of the battle on television screens around the world, this victory is not hers or Congress’ to own; victory belongs to Labor, especially since, at best, they’re paid minimal lip service by the majority of our nations elected officials.

While some may say this is sour grapes and splitting hairs, it really isn’t when you consider that Labors’ efforts to create a more autonomous workplace, barely registers a blip on the radar of the mainstream media as well and when a network voice champions us, it’s almost immediately drowned out, shifted away from its prime-time slot and eventually rendered useless by corporate apparatchiks.   

One way to have Labor heard is, with the help of allies in the activist movements around America, to finally endear ourselves to the notion of a massive General Strike.  Galvanizing the general proletariat petrifies vast majorities of print, television and cable outlets, as well as the bulk of the sitting members on Capitol Hill (think back to the railing against Occupy Wall Street by many in these groups). 

Labor mustn’t waver on this issue anymore and instead become vanguards of a General Strike.  President Trump caved in on the shutdown when unpaid TSA and NATCA workers reported off from their jobs and created near closures of major transportation hubs around the country.  What Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants, said about this is the perfect ignition source for such a movement: “Do we have your attention now, Leader McConnell?  All lawmakers?  Open the government and get back to the business of democracy.”

Do they have your attention now, politicians and political leaders?  American workers are tired of your impertinent ways and America’s Labor Movement is ready to do the hard lifting to get America righted.  

Labor happily owns this.

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You can contact Richard on Twitter @stlwrkr4889.

Posted In: Union Matters

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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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder