The stakes for workers' rights in 2014

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We are in the midst now of nothing less than a full-fledged class war against America's working people. That war was declared more than two years ago by an array of powerful right wing groups including the Chamber of Commerce, the National Manufacturers Association, the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council, among others.

The people directly firing the shots at the U.S. working class are an array of state lawmakers bought and paid for by these organizations. They are waging an unprecedented attack on basic workers rights, and they only began that attack by going after unions. Their true aim has always been to crush the vast majority of workers in this country, the majority who are not in unions.

Just a few examples from a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute show how the stepped up class warfare of the 1 percent against the 99 percent began and how that warfare continues to intensify:

We all remember the massive attack on collective bargaining rights that began with Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin several years ago.

Since then four states have passed laws either killing or restricting state minimum wage rules.

Four states have lifted restrictions on child labor.

Sixteen states have sharply reduced benefits for the unemployed and/or restricted the groups of people for whom those benefits are available.

States have stripped workers of overtime pay rights, repealed sick leave protection, killed workplace safety laws and even passed laws making it virtually impossible for a worker to sue a boss for race or sex discrimination.

As you read this there are efforts underway to pass laws making it impossible to recover unpaid wages even when those wages have been stolen by employers.

In some states laws are already in effect that forbid cities and counties in those states from establishing higher minimum wages or instituting sick leave benefits that are stronger than those in place in the state as a whole.

The organizations that have paid for this attack on basic worker's rights include business lobbyists like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. Those two groups are not new tea party formations. They are "as old as the hills," so to speak and they continue to push the war against workers by supporting both "traditional" and "tea party" Republicans and even, at times, certain Democrats.

Then we have the newer groups like the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity. With the help of obedient followers who hold the majority of Supreme Court positions, these organizations have broken new ground for the right wing corporate interests by taking advantage of the law to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into right wing political coffers - often into the coffers of the worst tea party extremists.

Then too there are groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council who make sure that, once in office, the lawmakers bought and paid for by the one percent are supplied with the legislative tools they need to implement the right-wing agenda.

Their goal is to permanently destroy wages, working conditions, legal protections and bargaining power for all workers in this country.

Labor and its allies must and actually are beginning to mount their own push to respond to these attacks on workers. We support this response and urge everyone to give their support too.

Labor and its allies are targeting more state legislative races this year than in any previous "off year " election.

Let all these state lawmakers be warned. The continued attack on the living standards of workers will not be tolerated. Nor will any attempts to weaken Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Nor will the people tolerate any further threats to hold the nation hostage by shutting down the government.

The round of elections just over earlier this month showed many gains for working people. They are not content to simply lie down in the face of warfare conducted against them. They showed that they will fight back. We all must do everything possible to continue and strengthen that fight in 2014 - to make sure we win this war we never asked for.

Photo: Madison, Wisc., solidarity march. People's World flickr.

 

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