Ronald Reagan in Labor’s Hall of Honor

America once had at least an implicit norm guiding wages

hall of honorAbout a year ago, the induction of the late President Ronald Reagan into the US Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor frankly shocked many working people.

As the New York Times wrote in 2011: “More than any other labor dispute of the past three decades, Reagan’s confrontation with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, or Patco, undermined the bargaining power of American workers and their labor unions. It also polarized our politics in ways that prevent us from addressing the root of our economic troubles: the continuing stagnation of incomes despite rising corporate profits and worker productivity.”

Ironically, PATCO had refused to endorse the Democratic Party because of “poor labor relations with the FAA (the employer of PATCO members) under the Carter administration and Ronald Reagan’s endorsement of the union and its struggle for better conditions during the 1980 election campaign.”

But when the union declared a strike in August 1981, “seeking better working conditions, better pay, and a 32-hour workweek, …Reagan declared the PATCO strike a “peril to national safety” and ordered them back to work under the terms of the Taft–Hartley Act.

“On August 5, following the PATCO workers’ refusal to return to work, Reagan fired the 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored the order, and banned them from federal service for life…” [Bill Clinton ended the lifetime ban.]

“The FAA had initially claimed that staffing levels would be restored within two years; however, it would take closer to ten years before the overall staffing levels returned to normal.

“In 2003, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, speaking on the legacy of Ronald Reagan, noted: ‘far more importantly his action gave weight to the legal right of private employers, previously not fully exercised, to use their own discretion to both hire and discharge workers.'”

“On March 1, 2018, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta inducted President Ronald Reagan ” – the “only president to lead a major union”, the Screen Actors Guild – “into the… Hall of Honor, which was established in 1988 to honor Americans whose distinctive contributions have elevated working conditions, wages, and overall quality of life for American families.

“As a worker, an advocate, and a public official, President Ronald Reagan worked to unleash opportunity and prosperity for all Americans… As President of the United States, he returned a sense of economic optimism to our nation that resulted in the creation of millions of jobs for the American people.”

This Brookings article suggests that the Reagan economic policy was at best a mixed bag. Fortune’s Labor Day 2015 story was more explicit:

“America once had at least an implicit norm guiding wages… From roughly the end of World War II through much of the 1970s, real (cost of living-adjusted) wages increased in tandem with gains in productivity.

“More recently, analysts have begun to recognize that the long-term decline in unions and worker bargaining power accounts for a sizable portion of the problem [of stagnant wages].

“It is no coincidence that the gap between wages and productivity began to expand dramatically around 1980, a turning point for collective bargaining.” Clearly, there were other factors, but the decline of unions, championed by the Labor Department’s honoree, Ronald Reagan, certainly contributed to that.

Labor Day: NOT invented by Hallmark

It’s well documented that there is an income disparity between the rich and the poor.

I’ve become convinced that a lot of people believe that Labor Day in the United States was invented to give those lazy workers a three-day weekend just before the summer ends. From the Census Bureau: “The first observance of Labor Day was likely on Sept. 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the country, and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a “workingmen’s holiday” on one day or another. Continue reading “Labor Day: NOT invented by Hallmark”

Vegetable washing, poultry killing, Glida Corp, EJ shoes and my mom

Endicott Johnson was one of the fairer employers of the period, as the title of Professor Zahavi’s 1988 book Workers, Managers, and Welfare Capitalism: The Shoemakers and Tanners of Endicott Johnson, 1890-1950, would suggest.

This is photo of my mom, Gertrude Williams (later Green), that I have never seen before this week, behind the counter, in front of the scales to the left. My sister Marcia found it and put it on her Facebook page.

Apparently, my mom told my sisters that she worked at something called the Glida Corporation from the time she was 16 for four or five years, and this, apparently, is from there.

There is an obscured chart to the right about Endicott- Johnson, the shoe company that was huge in the Binghamton, NY area, and its sales for the 12 months ending November something, of $142,029,121.32.

So I wrote to Professor Gerald Zahavi, who is a UAlbany professor Continue reading “Vegetable washing, poultry killing, Glida Corp, EJ shoes and my mom”

May Rambling: Faraway fire; faux news; second chances

I was noting in particular two Billy Joel songs, ‘Get It Right The First Time’ from 1977 and ‘Second Wind (You’re Only Human)’ from 1985, and how I prefer the latter sentiment.

Chuck Miller has taken on the task of promoting the work of his “fellow Times Union community bloggers, until that day when the Times Union itself will restore the ‘Best of Our Blogs’ feature to the print edition of the paper.” And one of those “well-written articles” was mine. Merci, Chuck.

The specter of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory looms over the garment factory that collapsed last month in Bangladesh, killing more than [1100] workers…. But the world is smaller than it was 102 years ago. Tragedies of this sort in the Third World aren’t engendered only by forces in their proximity, and they won’t be averted unless the responsibility for change is embraced globally. Also, Is Rana Disaster Bangladesh’s Triangle Fire? I wrote about the Triangle fire HERE.

Meryl’s quite reasonable concern: ‘truth’ is becoming ever-more illusive with advancing photoshop technology and our modern vehicles of ‘news resources’ and communication. Related: Since Twitter hasn’t built a correction feature, here are 3 things journalists can do instead. And Who’s The Biggest Liar?
Continue reading “May Rambling: Faraway fire; faux news; second chances”

Not Letting the Truth Get in the Way

You know that old cliche about you’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts? I guess that depends on whether it’s politically expedient.

I’m an old political science major. I appreciate differing points of view on the issues. I even solicit varying positions by reading a mix of publications. But what’s been going on in US politics is not that anymore. Reading this article, originally from the Guardian (UK), called The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left, I was particularly fascinated by this section:

Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics”. The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society”.

Lofgren complains that “the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today”. Continue reading “Not Letting the Truth Get in the Way”