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Est. April 5, 2002
July 11, 2019 - Issue 797

Unemployment Benefits
are for
Union Workers, Too


"Despite the 'experts' telling the American people that the
economy is doing fine and the president, as usual proclaiming
that it is the best economy in the history of the country, the
economy is not doing so well when the reality of it is taken
into consideration, especially in light of the borrowing of
trillions of dollars to balance budgets."

Many outlets of the free press occasionally show their true colors: That they are boosters of their local communities, owned by oligarchs and giant corporations, or they support government policies and positions about the nation's “enemies.”

There are other signs, of course, that tell us where the free press stands, but one local newspaper editorialized on July 3 that unionized workers who are on strike should not be provided with unemployment benefits after one week, because they did not lose their jobs and paychecks due to “market conditions,” but because they took the risky step of striking for better pay and benefits, as well as safer and healthier working conditions.

It was with a bit of irony that the editorial in The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y., should appear on the day before Independence Day, a day that could be celebrated as one on which workers once could observe their independence from the full power of business interests. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) gave workers the right to organize unions and collectively bargain contracts under which they would raise the standard of living for all workers.

Yes, unions have set the standards for wages, benefits, pensions, and things like safety and health on the job, paid sick leave, and standard breaks from grinding and grueling assembly lines and other hard labor and mind-numbing repetitive work. That is, they have accomplished these things historically, at least during most of the 20th Century, after passage of the NLRA, which gave workers the right (and encouraged them, as well) to organize themselves into unions. The law, also known as the Wagner Act, lessened the inequality gap that had always existed between labor and capital.

But, for some time, the rich and Corporate America have cranked up the onslaught against workers and their unions, and they have used Congress, the state legislatures, and the courts to accomplish their goals of victory against wage earners, no matter what or who they are. That effort has been especially felt since the 1980s, but the war on workers started before that.

Warren Buffett about 10 years ago famously said, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” That was a decade ago and, even at that time, the intensified war on workers had been in play for about 30 years. There are a couple of historical numbers that should be put together by anyone who works for a paycheck: American wages have been stagnant for about 40 years and back at the beginning of that period was when the war on workers (specifically on their unions) was gaining the strength that only the power of unlimited money can unleash. That is not a coincidence because, as was said above, the unions since World War II had set the standards for the American workplace.

According to the Pew Research Center, in August 2018, “After adjusting for inflation, however, today’s average hourly wage has just about the same purchasing power it did in 1978, following a long slide in the 1980s and early 1990s and bumpy, inconsistent growth since then. In fact, in real terms average hourly earnings peaked more than 45 years ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 had the same purchasing power that $23.68 would today.”

The bill in question would reduce the waiting period for striking workers from seven weeks to one week, the same as workers who have lost their jobs through lay-off, firing, or closing of the business. The editorial writer demanded that the governor veto the bill because “...taxpayers will be subsidizing, and potentially encouraging, people who risk giving up their jobs voluntarily through labor walkouts.”

Even with its back to the wall, the union movement is still setting the standard for all workers and conditions would be much worse if unions were not attempting to organize new workers and improving pay and benefits for all workers. Employers have historically kept their wages and benefits as near as possible to union standards, just so their workers would not consider unionizing. Being a non-union paper, The Daily Gazette knows that and its editorial writer should know that, too, so why should union workers on strike be treated any differently from non-union workers?

The war on workers has resulted in the greatest disparity in wealth and income for at least one hundred years, since the Gilded Age of the robber barons. That fact alone should have had some bearing on the thrust of the paper's editorial, but it did not.

Again, the Pew Research Center, in 2018: “A similar measure – the 'usual weekly earnings' of employed, full-time wage and salary workers – tells much the same story, albeit over a shorter time period. In seasonally adjusted current dollars, median usual weekly earnings rose from $232 in the first quarter of 1979 (when the data series began) to $879 in the second quarter of this year, which might sound like a lot. But in real, inflation-adjusted terms, the median has barely budged over that period: That $232 in 1979 had the same purchasing power as $840 in today’s dollars.”

Despite the “experts” telling the American people that the economy is doing fine and the president, as usual, proclaiming that it is the best economy in the history of the country, the economy is not doing so well when the reality of it is taken into consideration, especially in light of the borrowing of trillions of dollars to balance budgets. Eventually, someone has to pay and it usually is wage-working taxpayers, no matter how much or little is in their paychecks. They pay, while the rich and corporations get away scot-free or nearly so.

Although the Gazette likes to advertise itself af the only independent paper in the region, it usually follows the lead of the nation's biggest papers and uses much from their news services. The editorialist, in the final word, raised the straw man of the all-powerful union movement (which it has not been for 50 years), by saying, “When this bill goes to Gov. Cuomo's desk for his signature, he needs to resist the financial influence of big labor and veto this bill.” Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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