He travels 120 miles, roundtrip, for a job on the night shift. Fuel costs eat up $100 to $150 of his weekly paycheck and he gets no health benefits until he's worked over three months on the job. He says he's lucky to have something, after being unemployed for six months, but he feels as though he's going backwards.
Today is Labor Day in America. Past holidays included a day off, maybe a small luncheon, celebrations of union solidarity, families relaxing together and enjoying the fruits of hard labor. Today, most retail, industrial and contract workers are on the job, fretting about day care for their children, wondering if they can stretch their paychecks to cover gas and rent increases, hoping for a little relief from somewhere. It is an employers' market and the mantra of "bad economy" continues to keep paychecks down while middle class workers must work harder just to run in place, let alone get anywhere.
A recent article written by Robert B. Reich, a secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, shines a light on the dangers of the rich getting richer and the middle class getting poorer.
"This crisis began decades ago when a new wave of technology — things like satellite communications, container ships, computers and eventually the Internet — made it cheaper for American employers to use low-wage labor abroad or labor-replacing software here at home than to continue paying the typical worker a middle-class wage. Even though the American economy kept growing, hourly wages flattened. The median male worker earns less today, adjusted for inflation, than he did 30 years ago." - NY Times oped, September 2, 2010
This article and others shed a dimming light on the source of America's wealth - middle class consumers. Declining paychecks, declining quality of work, declining availability of time, means declining standard of living for everyone, including the wall street wealthy. There is a good reason why economic security tops the list of problems that Americans want solved pronto. Even concerns about national security take a back seat when parents must sweat paying for their children's back-to-school clothes.
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Congress needs to celebrate the American worker by passing the Obama administration's proposed infrastructure public works bill and we need to support America's industries with our cash. For a few dollars more, we can get good, American made products (e.g., Merle Norman, Corelle, LL Bean, Burt's Bees, New Balance, Nordstrom's) and keep our local workers employed.