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Tue, August 26, 2014

Commentary: Labor Day 2014 Op-Ed

This Labor Day, as we head to parades and barbecues to celebrate the achievements of America’s workers, economic anxiety will be hanging over our heads.

Millions of workers across the country are struggling to support their families and are barely scraping by.  Wages have not kept pace with productivity and while CEOs, corporate shareholders and the 1% are enjoying record profits, many hardworking people struggle to put food on the table and gas in the tank.  Working families are frustrated because despite our hard work, our sacrifice and our innovation, too, many of us are not reaping the fruits of our labor.  It’s time to give working families a raise!

Our wages haven’t remained stagnant by chance.  The rise in political and corporate attacks on working people has meant that for decades wages have declined or remained flat.  The drop in labor union participation over the years has contributed to falling labor standards in Iowa and across the country.  Good jobs with good benefits have become harder to come by.  Although working people are now more productive than ever, they are not seeing the rewards.  Instead of relying on one well-paying job to support themselves, many people are working multiple jobs and are still unable to make ends meet.  All of these factors are threatening to kill the American dream for millions of hardworking families.

It is time for working families to come together to push for a more equal economy.  This November, let’s elect leaders who put the needs of workers in Iowa first.  Americans of all political stripes, whether they are progressives or members of the Tea Party, are looking for candidates who understand their economic struggles. Working people want elected officials who will stand with us rather than with the wealthy and corporations to reverse the trends of the last few decades.  We want leaders who support unions and recognize the importance of organizing and collective bargaining in ensuring safe workplaces and fair wages.

Improving the lives of workers by raising wages is not a lost cause.  There have been signs of hope across the country this year.  From Massachusetts to North Carolina, to Minnesota and Kansas, in dozens of towns, cities and states, local government officials have responded to the needs of workers in their districts by increasing wages.  All candidates running for office this fall would be wise to adopt a working families agenda that raises wages, enacts family-friendly policies in the workplace, and invests in research, education and infrastructure to create good jobs that pay well and are funded by closing tax loopholes for big corporations.  Candidates should pursue policies that ensure workers have access to paid sick days, increase the minimum wage for low-wage workers and protect workers from retaliation for attempting to form a union.

Every day, workers labor and strive to achieve the American dream.  This Labor Day should be a celebration for working families and all we can accomplish.  Together we can counteract widening income inequality and diminishing economic opportunity.  Will you join me in the fight?

Ken Sagar, President Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO

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