News Release

Labor Day: * Min. Wage * Occupy * Political Conventions

Rev. STEPHEN COPLEY [email]
Director of the Arkansas Interfaith Alliance and chairman of the national nonpartisan Let Justice Roll Living Wage Coalition, Copley said: “Our motto at Let Justice Roll is ‘A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it.’ Today’s minimum wage is a poverty wage, not a living wage. At $7.25 an hour, just $15,080 a year, the minimum wage is set so low that growing numbers of hardworking men and women turn to food banks and homeless shelters to try and fill the gaping hole in their wages. It is immoral that the minimum wage is worth less, adjusted for inflation, than the over $10 value it had in 1968, the year Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis while fighting for living wages. It’s time to raise the minimum wage.”

MIKE ELK [email], @mikeelk
A reporter for In These Times magazine, Elk recently wrote a piece titled “At 35,000-Member Rally, AFL-CIO Attempts the Herculean,” which states: “When thousands of union members gathered in Philadelphia for the AFL-CIO’s Workers Stand for America’ rally, labor leaders tried to pull off a difficult balancing act: firing up a weary, embattled labor movement while presenting an endorsement of Barack Obama as the lesser of two evils.

“Out of fear of the Republicans’ all-out war on unions, labor leaders found themselves in the awkward position of having to champion the reelection of Obama, whose actions toward organized labor have ranged from indifferent to hostile. Touting Obama at the August 11 rally posed additional difficulties because the event had been initially seen as a sort of “shadow convention” in protest of the Democratic National Convention being held in heavily anti-union North Carolina.”

JACKIE DiSALVO [email]occupytogether.org
DiSalvo is on the labor outreach committee of Occupy Wall Street and professor of English at Baruch College, CUNY. She said today: “Unions were challenged this year by Occupy Wall Street whose focus on the oppression of the 99% by the 1% reached the public on the issue of inequality in a way that labor had been unable to do. In pointing the finger at the capitalist ruling class with a directness unprecedented in U.S. mass movements, it revealed a U.S. public resonating with a message far more class-conscious and radical than mainstream labor’s idea of ‘saving the middle class.’

“At the same time seeking an alliance with labor, it revealed a sector of educated but downwardly mobile young people who were far more sympathetic to unions than the anti-union propaganda of the media would have one believe. These breakthroughs were made possible through confrontational tactics which eschewed labor’s passive reliance on the Democrats for participatory democracy and self-reliant direct action. Occupy challenged labor to increase its militancy while opening up space for it to do so while at the same time its emphasis on the common interests of the 99% demanded that unions go beyond a narrow focus on the contract demands of its own members to espouse greater solidarity both to support each other’s struggles and to represent the interests of the whole working class.

“Some of this greater solidarity which was first manifested in Wisconsin, appeared in the giant union demonstrations in support of Occupy, the joint actions of low wage workers, and the unprecedented rallying of the leaders of all the major unions in May Day actions and in support of locked-out Con Ed workers in NYC. Occupy challenged the hyper-cautiousness of labor leadership which had justified its tepid response to repeated attacks as necessitated by the alleged conservatism of the American public.

“Now, OWS people are occupying (briefly) Verizon stores and stopping their trucks in support of the CWA [Communication Workers of America], getting arrested fighting for the jobs of laundry workers, marching in the West Indian parade with transit workers tomorrow and with PSC-CUNY [Professional Staff Congress-City University of New York], the faculty and staff union in next week’s Labor Parade — all while gearing up for a confrontation with Wall Street on Sept. 17, it’s one year anniversary.”