By: Fred Walter
Executive VP, UFCW Local 1500
Can this be right? 4 out of 5 American adults need some kind of government help! This is just wrong! This great country has no jobs where hard working people can make a living and raise their families on. I'd like to know why there are no full-time jobs for blue collar workers in our country. Why there are no manufacturing jobs and no full-time retail jobs. Everything has been outsourced (including produce) so companies like Walmart can get the goods they sell for close to nothing by using the world's cheapest labor.
But earlier this month Walmart's CEO, Bill Simon, hosts a summit. In a push to create US manufacturing jobs he organized a two day conference that drew almost 1,500 government officials and business leaders to discuss the importance of increasing manufacturing jobs in the U.S.. This is great, right?! Well, Republican governors at the event said that survival of the US manufacturing industry hinged on keeping labor costs low. They also suggested speeding up the permitting process and offering special tax breaks and incentives as ways of encouraging companies to relocate to the US.
It's the same old story: Help the companies and *** the workers . There was a time when manufacturing jobs were full-time union jobs. Workers were paid a fair wage with benefits.
Bill Simon said at his event in Orlando, Florida, "We can't become solely a service economy. We need to make things in America." Really?!? Is Walmart the company that built factories in China and other third world countries to find the cheapest labor? I believe so! This will be great, companies will be opening factories paying minimum wage and no benefits...This will definitely make things right for workers in our country.
What's happened? We import steel from China when we need a bridge built. Why? There was a time when the world purchased steel from the US, made in a city called Pittsburgh. There was a time when this country worked! Everything was made here. Detroit built cars and sold them here. Factories all across this country made everything: clothes, suits, tvs, appliances and furniture. Blue collar union jobs made the middle class. Those jobs could support a family.
Economic justice. What is economic justice? What are the goals of a good economic system? What is the reality of wealth, poverty and class distinction in this country? How does 98% of the world's wealth belong to 2% of the population? 98% of the population gets to have 2% of the world's wealth. Sound fair? No.
No matter what your job is, how do you evaluate working hard? Does the CEO of a company, doctor, lawyer, congressman, senator news anchor, sports athlete, work hard? Yes. Are they paid well? Yes. Not everyone is qualified for the above jobs, but men and women who have blue collar, retail and service jobs work hard every day as well. Do they deserve fair pay? Yes.
During the Regan administration the rich became richer and the poor became poorer. During the Bush administration there were tax breaks for the rich. There were two wars not paid for and not necessary. Weapons of mass destruction were never found. Bush's friends got rich, Chenney's friends got richer. Questions loomed if Bush was really elected, and the electoral process in Florida was heavily scrutinized. I asked after the election if our government really worked. The majority of voters elected a president based on what he promised, stands for and the change he wants to make to improve our nation.
Congress, the Senate and the White House fail the majority who elected the president because of party politics. It doesn't matter what's good for the country or the majority, political parties cannot agree and cannot progress our nation. The only thing that seems to matter is what's good for lobbyists and what cost you're willing to pay. This week in our nation's capital, DC, this theory was sadly once again proved true. The Mayor of DC (Grey, Democrat) vetoed legislation that would require large, wealthy employers to pay their employees a minimum wage of no less than $12.50 an hour in combined wages and benefits. Subsequently raising full-time employee salaries from $17,000 to $26,000 at stores like Walmart.
Politics divide our country. Once we stop voting and acting on political party lines, and start acting for the benefit of the majority of our struggling country, then, maybe we'll have real progress.
Fred Walter has been a part of the UFCW Local 1500 staff for over 20-years. Currently, as Executive Vice President, he serves on the Local 1500 Executive Board and is also a Trustee of the Pension & Welfare Funds. In the past, Mr. Walter has been an integral asset during contract negotiations, bargaining and advancing the membership of Local 1500.