Dick Meister: Still dreaming of justice

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Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based columnist who has covered labor and politics for more than a half-century.  Contact him through his website,www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than 350 of his columns.

Think back to Aug. 28, 1963.  More than a quarter-million labor and civil rights activists led by Martin Luther King Jr. march onto the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to demand good jobs at decent wages and strict enforcement and expansion of the laws guaranteeing meaningful civil and economic rights to all Americans.

The demands, spelled out in Dr. King's famous "I have a Dream" speech that day,  will be forcefully raised once again by  a fiftieth  anniversary March from the Lincoln Memorial  to the King Memorial  on the  Mall  this August 24.

The 2013 march has been called for very good reason: The need for greatly strengthened labor and civil rights is at least as urgent today as it was in 1963. By any measure, the 1963 March was a huge success. It had a direct and strong influence on the enactment a year later of laws prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations and the passage two years later of the Voting Rights Act that enabled many African -Americans to freely cast ballots for the first time.

But despite the successes that followed the march, the nation once again faces severe economic and social problems. Consider:

*Voter suppression has become a serious problem once more, with several
states imposing new restrictions on the right to vote that have been upheld
in court.

*Unemployment remains notably high, particularly among African-American
workers, and young workers generally, even as a great need for workers to
rebuild the nation's crumbling transportation and energy infrastructure
continues to mount.

*Jobless workers now, as then, need much more government aid, with
unemployment insurance payments averaging only $300 a week.  Many workers
who manage to find jobs are able to work only part-time or only temporarily,
and for less pay than they made on previous jobs.

*Millions of women workers face blatant job discrimination, as do older
workers, the young and African-American workers in general. They often are
paid less than others doing the same work, and often are denied promotions
that they've earned. Women sometimes face sexual harassment as well.
*Millions of workers, male and female alike, are forced to live on
poverty-level pay, including those workers making the grossly inadequate
federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Many of the country's fast-food
workers are lucky if they make even that.

*Millions lack paid sick leave needed to care for sick children and other
family members and to keep them from having to work when ill and endanger
the health of others as well as themselves.

*Public employees, who perform some of the country's most vital work, are
under steady attack by politicians and others who seize on them as
scapegoats by blaming the workers, many of them women and people of color,
for the economic problems that beset government at all levels. They strive
mightily to cut the employees 'pay and pensions and other benefits and mute
their political and economic voices.

*Income inequality is a severe problem. The gap between the haves and
have-nots is downright spectacular. A recent study by the Economic Policy
Institute showed, for instance, that the CEOs of major companies make on
average about 273 times more than the average worker. That's right ­­
average executive pay is almost three times  the average pay of ordinary
workers. Are those who direct work really worth so much more than those who
actually do the work?

 *Thousands of workers are endangered by lax enforcement of job safety laws,
thousands shortchanged by employers who fail to pay them what they've been
promised and clearly earned.

*Anti-labor employers openly violate laws that promise workers the right of
unionization that would enable them to effectively try to improve their
inadequate pay and working conditions. That's one of the key reasons the
share of workers in unions has declined to a 97-year low of barely 11
percent.

*Despite the rise of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union, the
men, women ­-and too often children -- who harvest the food that sustains us
all are barely surviving on their poverty level wages.

*Free trade agreements and the offshoring of U.S. jobs have led to the loss
of millions of domestic jobs.

President Clayola Brown of the AFL-CIO's A. Philip Randolph Institute, a key
2013 march sponsor named for the leader of the 1963 march, notes that as in
1963, "the job situation is deplorable. Today, we have 30-year-old people
who have never had a full-time job in their lives."

Brown will be among the thousands of union and civil rights advocates who,
like the marchers 50 years ago, are expected to gather on the National
Mall Aug. 24 to raise their demands for justice, as they march from one to
the other of the sculpted likenesses of two of the greatest advocates of
social and economic justice who've ever lived.

Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based columnist who has covered labor and
politics for more than a half-century.  Contact him through his website,
www.dickmeister.com, which includes more than
350 of his columns.
   Copyright 2013 Dick Meister.

(Bruce B. Brugmann writes and edits the Bruce Blog on the San Francisco Bay Guardian website. He is the editor at large and former editor and co-founder and co-publisher with his wife Jean Dibble of the SF Bay Guardian, 1966-2012.)

Comments

no longer harp on about race as if it matters any more.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 6:38 am

*Voter suppression has become a serious problem once more, with several
states imposing new restrictions on the right to vote that have been upheld
in court.

Requiring voters to identify themselves is onerous?

*Unemployment remains notably high, particularly among African-American
workers, and young workers generally, even as a great need for workers to
rebuild the nation's crumbling transportation and energy infrastructure
continues to mount.

The US is running a $1,000,000,000,000 annual deficit. How high would you like the deficit to be?

*Jobless workers now, as then, need much more government aid, with
unemployment insurance payments averaging only $300 a week. Many workers
who manage to find jobs are able to work only part-time or only temporarily,
and for less pay than they made on previous jobs.

This is why people save, learn in-demand skills, and move to areas with booming economies. Subsidizing people so they can stay in dying cities is unfeasible.

*Millions of women workers face blatant job discrimination, as do older
workers, the young and African-American workers in general. They often are
paid less than others doing the same work, and often are denied promotions
that they've earned. Women sometimes face sexual harassment as well.
*Millions of workers, male and female alike, are forced to live on
poverty-level pay, including those workers making the grossly inadequate
federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Many of the country's fast-food
workers are lucky if they make even that.

If you have any ability and initiative, you can quickly move past minimum wage.

*Millions lack paid sick leave needed to care for sick children and other
family members and to keep them from having to work when ill and endanger
the health of others as well as themselves.

This is why people save money.

*Public employees, who perform some of the country's most vital work, are
under steady attack by politicians and others who seize on them as
scapegoats by blaming the workers, many of them women and people of color,
for the economic problems that beset government at all levels. They strive
mightily to cut the employees 'pay and pensions and other benefits and mute
their political and economic voices.

Public employees like the $125k BART janitor with the $3,000,000 pension are destroying public finances across the country. Municipal bankruptcies caused by these sweetheart deals are just beginning.

*Income inequality is a severe problem. The gap between the haves and
have-nots is downright spectacular. A recent study by the Economic Policy
Institute showed, for instance, that the CEOs of major companies make on
average about 273 times more than the average worker. That's right ­­
average executive pay is almost three times the average pay of ordinary
workers. Are those who direct work really worth so much more than those who
actually do the work?

If you would like to make more money, provide more value.

*Thousands of workers are endangered by lax enforcement of job safety laws,
thousands shortchanged by employers who fail to pay them what they've been
promised and clearly earned.

Work has never been safer in the United States.

*Anti-labor employers openly violate laws that promise workers the right of
unionization that would enable them to effectively try to improve their
inadequate pay and working conditions. That's one of the key reasons the
share of workers in unions has declined to a 97-year low of barely 11
percent.

Unions destroy businesses, reduce employment, and drive work overseas.

*Despite the rise of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union, the
men, women ­-and too often children -- who harvest the food that sustains us
all are barely surviving on their poverty level wages.

If they aren't paid enough, they should find another line of work.

*Free trade agreements and the offshoring of U.S. jobs have led to the loss
of millions of domestic jobs.

And led to the gain of millions of jobs in China and India, boosting global equality.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 6:39 am

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