As Labor Day 2011 comes on tomorrow, it is a sobering time for labor unions and workers, whether in unions or not.
Labor unions have been under sharp and sustained attack across America, continuing a 30 year decline beginning under Ronald Reagan.
Workers’ wages are stagnant or declining in purchasing power, and most employees know they are in a weak state, afraid of antagonizing management in a time of extremely high unemployment, where any problems created with employers can lead to quick unemployment lines.
With 9.1 percent official unemployment in August, and absolutely no job growth at all, for the first time since February 1945, there is great fear among the unemployed, as well as those who have jobs, that the labor situation is going to get worse before it gets better.
African Americans have an unemployment rate nearing 17 percent, and Hispanics and Latinos have over 12 percent, and people without a college degree have about 9.5 percent, while college graduates actually have only about a 4.5 percent unemployment rate.
So race and ethnicity and lack of adequate education are key factors in unemployment. But also, alarmingly, many people between 50-60 years of age are experiencing long term unemployment for the first time in their adult lives, with little opportunity to retrieve an equivalent job and salary anytime, and with Social Security and Medicare still years away from occurring.
Also, while the unemployment rate remains stagnant at 9.1 percent, the REAL unemployment rate of those with only part time hours added to those who have no work, is closer to 18 percent, an unacceptable and dangerous number!
We must not forget that it is young people, plus discontented older people, who have led for change in the “Arab Spring”, and also now are demanding major change in government policies in our Mideast ally, Israel.
How much longer can labor conditions continue the way they are going without a reaction which might include radical action, some of it violent or incendiary?
So the urgency of a serious jobs program by Barack Obama, and cooperation by Congress is needed, but not likely due to the divided Congress, and the power of the Tea Party Movement, which wants no government involvement in creating jobs!
So crisis conditions and divisions are bound to get worse very soon, a troubling scenario!