Labor Day message

Letter: Clovis’ teachers benefit from union gains

By Sandra McCanne, San Juan Capistrano
The Orange County Register, August 21, 2016

Re: “On teacher freedom, Clovis sets an example for California” [Opinion, Aug. 18]:

Kudos to the school teachers and administrators in Clovis. However, I disagree that the unions have played no role in their success.

People need to be compensated financially for their work and level of expertise. The teachers union has been key in obtaining adequate pay for its members. If Clovis paid salaries less than surrounding unionized communities, they would not be able to recruit qualified teachers.

Thus, the Clovis teachers reap the benefits without contributing their fair share financially to the process.


Union decline lowers wages of nonunion workers: The overlooked reason why wages are stuck and inequality is growing

By Jake Rosenfeld, Patrick Denice, and Jennifer Laird
Economic Policy Institute, August 30, 2016

Pay for private-sector workers has barely budged over the past three and a half decades. In fact, for men in the private sector who lack a college degree and do not belong to a labor union, real wages today are substantially lower than they were in the late 1970s.

Unions, especially in industries and regions where they are strong, help boost the wages of all workers by establishing pay and benefit standards that many nonunion firms adopt. But this union boost to nonunion pay has weakened as the share of private-sector workers in a union has fallen from 1 in 3 in the 1950s to about 1 in 20 today.

The impact of the erosion of unions on the wages of both union and nonunion workers is likely the largest single factor underlying wage stagnation and wage inequality.


Donald Trump is the Anti–Labor Day Candidate: Running Against Fair Wages, Worker Rights, and Unions

By John Nichols
The Nation, September 4, 2016

Donald Trump, the billionaire candidate who has argued that “having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country” and complained in a 2015 GOP debate that wages are “too high,” is running for president this fall on the most virulently anti-worker and anti-union platform in the history of his Republican Party.

Trump’s decision to make fiercely anti-union Indiana Governor Mike Pence his running mate should be read as another signal that the Republican presidential nominee is prepared to steer federal policy making toward the disastrous approaches of dogmatic governors such as Pence and Wisconsin’s Walker.

Trump and the anti-labor partisans who nominated him for the presidency have rejected the legacy of a Grand Old Party that once cheered when Abraham Lincoln declared: “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

Dwight Eisenhower warned, as a Republican president, about politicians “who hold some foolish dream of spinning the clock back to days when unorganized labor was a huddled, almost helpless mass.”

“Only a handful of unreconstructed reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions,” Eisenhower argued in the prosperous 1950s.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

Labor Day seems to be an opportune time to step back and take a look at how today’s labor force is faring.

Wages are stagnant. The income and wealth inequality gap has increased in recent decades. Financial hardship is rampant. This has coincided with the suppression of unions and their bargaining power.

In the past, workers who were not members of unions have benefited from the higher standards for all workers that union negotiation had achieved. The study by the Economic Policy Institute demonstrates that the decline in unions coincides with a negative impact on the wages of all workers, union or not.

Unions have also fought for health benefits for their members, and that led to employer sponsored plans covering more Americans, union or not, than any other public or private health program. But that still left many out. With the decline in union power, the nation has turned to the Affordable Care Act to try to fill the void, but that has fallen short as well.

Unfortunately, the problem is political, but it need not be so. The Republican party has traditionally supported America’s workers, and they can do so again, although they seem to be missing the opportunity in this election year.

Just as union support for living wages improves incomes for all workers, their support for health care would do the same. But they do need to redirect their support away from the current fragmented system that leaves so many uninsured and underinsured, and move towards a system that would work for everyone: a single payer national health program - an improved Medicare for all.

(A personal note:  I’m especially proud of Sandy, my bride of 56 years who, without my prompting, wrote the above letter to the libertarian Orange County Register, letting them know that celebrating free riders stains the concept of freedom.)

Physicians for a National Health Program is a nonpartisan educational organization. It neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate for public office.