Posts Tagged ‘Shared Prosperity’

Shared Prosperity Issues Win Voter Approval

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

By Teresa Mosqueda

There seems to be a disconnect in the recent election. How can minimum wage and sick leave local ordinances pass in all corners of our country, yet conservative candidates win at the same time?

Yes, voter turnout was markedly low, as low as it has been since World War II. But that can’t be the only reason Democrats lost so many seats around the nation. We need to answer the question of why voter turnout was low in order to begin reengaging the progressive base so that left-leaning voters are present in 2016, if the pendulum is ever to swing back.

Voters who showed up across the nation passed progressive policies for working families, yet elected conservative candidates. In Arkansas, Alaska, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Illinois voters passed minimum-wage increases proving they want policies to address income inequality and create greater shared prosperity. In Massachusetts, Oakland, CA, and Montclair and Trenton, NJ, voters passed paid sick leave policies showing that sick leave should no longer be a privilege for the few, and extend leave to more working families.

Voters, at least those who showed up, agreed with policies that lift low-wage workers out of crushing poverty and voted to provide additional support to help workers take care of their families. And this was the policy result from the conservative voting majority who turned out to elect Republicans. Just imagine what could happen if more left-leaning candidates ran on a platform of creating greater shared prosperity and addressing income inequality.

To re-engage the progressive electorate and make sure they are present and participating in 2016, voters need inspiration.

Last year, progressives in the WA House of Representatives passed a handful of bills on the Washington State Labor Council Shared Prosperity agenda to create greater equity – from sick leave to wage theft prevention measures. This upcoming session, the agenda will be back again. Elected leaders have a chance to show voters, starting now, that they are using every tool possible to address income inequality and rebuild the middle class.

The 2015 Shared Prosperity legislative agenda (which can be found at the Washington State Labor Council website when you click on Legislative Issues) includes raising the minimum wage, passing sick leave, stopping wage theft, creating paycheck fairness, ensuring retirement security, and investing in capital and infrastructure living-wage jobs. These are some of the policies working families need, and it is also the platform candidates can stand on to show voters they are responding to the call for greater economic security.

States not only need the policy initiatives to win at the ballot, but we need progressive candidates to win office to ensure good policies are protected and advanced. Perhaps, in 2016, we will have a ballot that yields progressive policy wins and retakes the majority with candidates who stand proud to run on these principles embodied in the Shared Prosperity agenda. The Shared Prosperity agenda is our roadmap to advancing needed policies, and for re-engaging progressive majorities to turn out and vote.

Teresa Mosqueda is Government Affairs Director of the Washington State Labor Council and a PSARA member.

Shared Prosperity Denied – 1880s to the early 1930s

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

By Mark McDermott

The 50 years from the 1880s to the early 1930s saw extraordinary changes in American life.  Rapid urbanization, massive immigration and the decades-long “Great Migration” of millions of African-Americans from the South to northern cities created teeming cities.  Rapid industrialization coupled with the world’s largest railroad network made us the leading industrial power in the world.  Technological innovations such as the telephone, motion pictures, electrification of factories, cities and homes, automobiles, and the radio revolutionized how many people lived and their views of the future.

Amidst the great changes, the country seethed with discontent as powerful corporations and spectacularly wealthy people amassed unimagined wealth.  At the same time, millions of workers and farmers performed grueling work and lived in chronic fear of hard times.  Peoples’ standards of living were rising and yet massive poverty remained.  Multiple financial panics, depressions and recessions periodically threw millions into abject poverty, insecurity and misery amidst the greatest wealth the world had ever seen.

Throughout these decades, the people struggled mightily to limit the power of corporations, the wealthy and their political allies in the Republican and Democratic Parties.  They wanted a more just system that shared the wealth fairly, provided greater security in hard economic times, expanded our democratic rights at work and in the larger community, created greater opportunity for education, and reduced work hours to allow more time for family and community life.

In very human terms, people wanted an adequate income when they were unemployed, unable to work or too old to work.  We wanted their families were adequately fed, clothed and housed.  They wanted an end of abusive child labor and free compulsory quality education for their children.  They wanted a more secure, just and hopeful future free from fear of want and deprivation in the land of plenty.  They wanted the right to organize unions, rights and dignity on the job, and safe and healthy workplaces.  They wanted a greater voice in political and economic life.

The demands for economic justice were largely thwarted for decades as Corporate America dominated economic and political life throughout most of the period.  Frustrated by the two major political parties’ unwillingness to address their great grievances, many people turned to new third parties – Greenbacks, Populists, Socialists, Progressives, and Communists and other organizations advocated broad changes.  They were looking for broad alternatives needed to change a system that simultaneously produced enormous wealth and perpetuated needless misery, exploitation and hardshipploitation and hardship.

At the same time, millions of workers struggled to organized unions and create a more democratic workplace in which they earned a fair wage in safe conditions.  Lacking legal rights to form unions and massive repression from governments supporting corporations, organized labor remained weak despite widespread demands for worker justice.

The growing people’s demands for expanded economic and political justice and rights were severely undercut by deep divisions among the people.  First and foremost, widespread racism and anti-immigrant hostility harmed millions and served the “divide and conquer” strategy of corporate America.  Culture wars against women’s rights including the right to vote, prohibition, evolution and religious bigotry against Catholics and Jews deepened the splits among working people.  Last but not least, government repression of radical organizations, and unions deepened these divisions.  All of these divisions served the interests of corporate America and not the people.

Despite corporate domination and deep divisions among the people, significant people’s victories were achieved.  Federal constitutional amendments for direct election of senators, a progressive personal income tax, and women’s right to vote were won.  Banning corporate campaign contributions was a first step in weakening the corporate stranglehold on national elections.  Many state worker compensation and child labor laws were won and free compulsory education spread across many states although racism denied millions of black children equal quality education.

At the end of the 1920s, corporate America and their political allies seemed firmly in control.  Their world view that largely unregulated free enterprise without interference from government, unions or other political movements was best for the people was deeply entrenched in American life.  The people were told that an economic and social safety net was not needed.  The future was bright.  To quote President Herbert Hoover in early 1929:  “We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.”

Six months later, the stock market collapsed and the Great Depression began.  The people would suffer immensely and would reap the whirlwind of their inability to overcome their deep differences and win their demands for economic and political justice.  It was a truly dark period yet the seeds of fifty years of fighting for justice were growing in harsh soil and conditions.