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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes – Labor Day Edition

Happy Labor Day — Really,” by WaPo/American Prospect columnist Harold Meyerson notes that, despite wage stagnation and shrinking union membership in recent years, there have been some recent gains American workers can celebrate, including: “Through actions in city halls and statehouses, through court decisions and labor board rulings, public officials, prompted by workers’ advocates, are finding ways to overcome many of the obstacles–outsourcing, franchising, stagnating minimum wages, union busting–that have created the new normal and with it, the shrinking of the middle class…Ordinances to raise the local minimum wage, which first popped up in liberal strongholds like San Francisco and Seattle, have in the past few weeks been enacted in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Birmingham, Alabama. A proposed ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2021 in California–home to one out of every eight American workers–commanded 68 percent support in a Field Poll last week…Unions are polling better, too…”
Another possible sign of labor rising — a presidential candidate on a picket line.
From Benjamin Siegel’s “Obama to Give 300,000 Workers Paid Sick Leave With New Executive Order” at ABCNews.com: “President Obama will sign an executive order Monday giving hundreds of thousands of workers employed by federal contractors access to paid sick leave…The order will require federal contractors to give employees the ability to earn at least seven days (56 hours) of paid sick leave annually. It will give about 300,000 workers new access to paid sick leave, and an additional number of workers the ability to earn more sick leave than they had before.”
For a more expansive take on the president’s initiatives on behalf of American workers, read Noam Scheiber’s “As His Term Wanes, Obama Champions Workers’ Rights.”
So how’s the President doing on job-creation as we celebrate Labor Day 2015? Paul Krugman reports, “As of last month, the U.S. unemployment rate, which was 7.8 percent when Mr. Obama took office, had fallen to 5.1 percent. For the record, Mr. Romney promised during the campaign that he would get unemployment down to 6 percent by the end of 2016. Also for the record, the current unemployment rate is lower than it ever got under Ronald Reagan. And the main reason unemployment has fallen so much is job growth in the private sector, which has added more than seven million workers since the end of 2012.”
Former Reagan advisor Bruce Bartlett unveils a new tweak in the GOP’s strategy to divide American workers’ voting power by race.
Moyers & Company presents a panel discussion, “Is Labor a Lost Cause,” featuring a dialogue with labor reform leaders, Stephen Lerner and Bill Fletcher, Jr (transcript here)

E. J. Dionne, Jr. addresses the proper role of government with respect to the lives of American working people and notes, “Many of the choices are not between more or less government. They are about whether what government does provides greater benefit to workers or employers, management or unions, individual investors or investment firms…”Which side are you on?” This question from the old union song is the right question to ask about government.”
At Counterpunch Walter Brasch’s “The Boss Who Fought for the Working-Class” pays tribute to Horace Greeley, whose newspaper, The New York Tribune was #1 in circulation world-wide, featured columnists like Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Karl Marx — and was read cover to cover by Greeley’s friend (and sometimes adversary) President Abraham Lincoln. “When his [Greeley’s] employees said they didn’t need a union because their boss paid them well and treated them fairly, he told them that only in a union could the workers continue to be treated decently, that they had no assurances that some day he might not be as decent and generous as he was that day. The union was for their benefit, the benefit of their families, and their profession, he told them.”

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