This Labor Day we recognize the women and men who do the work that has made America and Alaska strong. Whether we’re employed or looking for work, we are the heartbeat of this great country and state, so we take this day to honor people who work.
This year we are calling on everyone to join us in recognizing and rewarding the people who work—and rejecting the vision that advances the interests of the privileged and the powerful, a vision that has produced historic income inequality and wrecked our national economy.
Even in Alaska, these threats loom right around the corner. Like it or not, just look at the Coastal Zone Management ballot initiative. We are witness to the travesty of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, as the flood of outside money in our electoral process flowed into this primary election issue. And its just the beginning.
Political candidates, running against incumbent senators of both parties who are members of the state senate’s bi-partisan working group, are being heavily funded by executives and PACs of multi-national oil companies and their industry allies, whose hopeful end result is to have purchased the power to take over our legislature to pass whatever oil tax policy suits these massive corporations. And unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, our governor seems to be leading the charge.
Alaskans all agree we need to work with the oil companies; we just don’t want to be owned by them lock, stock, and barrel.
Don’t believe me? Look at what happens in states where the oil industry has dominated the political landscape. Take Texas for instance. Years of Republican control of both houses of their legislature and the governor’s office has produced laws that diminish the rights of workers under such a political landscape and as a result have reduced the wages literally down to poverty level - and thats not even a slight exaggeration.
Laborers, equipment operators, truck drivers and several other occupations who, in Alaska, earn wages good enough to support families, make minimum wage in Texas and in states like it. Heavy emphasis on ‘minimum’. Prevailing wage laws there have been weakened to the point of meaninglessness. Just peruse the Davis-Bacon Act wage determinations here to see for yourself.
So I’m all for the balance of bi-partisan legislatures, and according to recent polling, so too are an overwhelming majority of Alaska voters. Because when the deck is stacked, workers suffer. That is whats at stake here in Alaska. And if voters don’t tune in to what is at stake, they are destined to wake up to a bad hangover on November 7th that could last for a helluva long time.
On January 11, 1944 President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a second bill of rights, arguing that the political rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights had proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness. FDR never got to see this dream become reality.
But the AFL-CIO is ready to take up the banner to deliver a Second Bill of Rights for America. And they are as follows: The Right to Full Employment and a Living Wage; The Right to Full Participation in the Electoral Process; The Right to a Voice at Work; The Right to a Quality Education; and the Right to a Secure, Healthy Future. Go to the Alaska AFL-CIO’s website to see the details behind each of these rights.
One thing is certain. If we fully turn over our democracy to giant corporations, this dream, just like FDR’s will disappear into thin air. Because under the current course direction, the only ones guaranteed greater and greater economic security are the privileged and the powerful.
So, on this Labor Day, take the time to reflect on the contributions workers have made to build this country, and to commit to the cause of workers to keep us from spiraling into a wholly owned country of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.