This is the latest in a long fight over voting rights in Ohio. Here’s a quick rundown:
In 2008, early voting on the three days before Election Day – the weekend when many working people have time to get the polls – was a game-changer. In those three days, 930,000 Ohioans cast their vote, including an enormous number of African-Americans. In Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, African-Americans accounted for a whopping 56 percent of early votes. Overall, African-Americans made up 31 of the early vote and 21 percent of votes overall.
Early voting days were part of an attempt to mitigate the long lines and confusion of the 2004 election. It was meant to favor all voters, and make the process go smoother. So when the Ohio legislature passed restrictions on early voting, most observers saw it as an attempt to suppress the votes of minorities, working class, seniors, and students who for many reasons (transportation, work, pulling double-shifts, church organization) were more likely to vote on the weekends. Seriously, what other reason could there be? Did Republicans legislators enjoy the long lines at the polls?
The Obama campaign felt the same way, which is why they sued Ohio’s Secretary of State over these restrictions. The Romney campaign seized on this action, claiming that the Obama campaign was trying to suppress the rights of military voters, who were exempt from the early voting restrictions.
In our opinion, letting more people vote and making it easier to participate in democracy, particularly for 913,000 Ohio veterans, is part of what our servicemembers are fighting for – but never underestimate the Romney campaign’s lack of shame when twisting the truth.
“On balance, the right of Ohio voters to vote in person during the last three days prior to Election Day — a right previously conferred to all voters by the State — outweighs the State’s interest in setting the 6 p.m. Friday deadline,” ruled the court. “The burden on Ohio voters’ right to participate in the national and statewide election is great, as evidenced by the statistical analysis offered by Plaintiffs and not disputed by Defendants. Moreover, the State fails to articulate a precise, compelling interest in establishing the 6 p.m. Friday deadline as applied to non-UOCAVA [Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act] voters and has failed to evidence any commitment to the ‘exception’ it rhetorically extended to UOCAVA voters.”
This weekend, as you set off for beach trips or barbeques or family reunions, it’s worth taking a moment to remember that Labor Day isn’t just about a much-deserved day off at the end of the summer. It’s about the work that builds this country, and the people who fought to make sure that work is rewarded with decent pay, safe conditions and basic dignity.
Using the power of strength in numbers, working people created something special in this country: a middle class. It didn’t happen by accident, and it didn’t happen because living wages and good benefits were magnanimously handed down from above. It happened because workers stood up and demanded it.
So where is the middle class today? A new study from Pew shows that, after decades of growth, the middle class has seen a real decline in recent years. Middle-class families are looking at lower median incomes, lower net worth and increasing challenges staying middle class. The lost decade wasn’t just about the recession—it was a steady erosion of working peoples’ power, and a corresponding decline in the share of the economy that went to them. Of the people Pew surveyed, 85 percent say it’s harder to maintain their standard of living
There are a lot of reasons for this—like international competition and the increasing power of the financial industry—but first and foremost is that employees have less power on the job. Unions, in particular, have been under attack both at the policy level and in the workplace, as companies are increasingly likely to fight their employees’ attempts to organize. When fewer people have a union on the job, it doesn’t just affect people who might have had unions; it pushes wages and benefits down across the board.
The decline in worker power relative to their employers is obvious from a study released earlier this month by Sentier Research. The recession deeply reduced a lot of wealth and earning power for families. Stubbornly high unemployment reduces workers’ leverage and bargaining power and increases their sense of insecurity. That’s why the recovery has been so uneven:
Corporate profits, meanwhile, have recovered. But with workers producing more on the job, the gains in economic output have not been matched by new hiring.
“The character of the recovery has been one that has benefited businesses more than it has workers,” said Gary Burtless, a Brookings Institution economist.
Over the last few decades, the number of midwage, midskill jobs has stagnated or declined as employers chose to automate routine tasks or to move them offshore…On top of private sector revamps, state and local governments have been shedding workers in recent years. Those jobs lost in the public sector have been primarily in mid and higher-wage positions, according to Ms. Bernhardt’s analysis.
We need policies that support middle-class jobs. That means hiring, rather than firing, teachers, firefighters and police officers. It means making investments in our infrastructure—roads, transit, school construction, communications and energy. And it means funding job training, community college and student aid so that people can acquire skills without being saddled with debt.
This Labor Day, we need to commit to rebuilding a middle class, and making sure people who work can have a decent life on what they earn. Part of that is knowing your rights on the job, and not being afraid to stand up for them. (If you have questions about your rights at work, check out our new site, “Dear David.”) We need to see other working people as partners and allies, not just as the competition.
The middle class didn’t happen by accident. And we don’t just have to accept its disappearance.
Fairly early in Mitt’s speech last night he said this:
But today, four years from the excitement of the last election, for the first time, the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future.
It is not what we were promised.
It’s not just what we wanted. It’s not just what we expected.
It’s what Americans deserved.
You deserved it because during these years, you worked harder than ever before. You deserved it because when it cost more to fill up your car, you cut out movie nights and put in longer hours. Or when you lost that job that paid $22.50 an hour with benefits, you took two jobs at 9 bucks an hour and fewer benefits. You did it because your family depended on you. You did it because you’re an American and you don’t quit. You did it because it was what you had to do.
But driving home late from that second job, or standing there watching the gas pump hit 50 dollars and still going, when the realtor told you that to sell your house you’d have to take a big loss, in those moments you knew that this just wasn’t right.
But what could you do? Except work harder, do with less, try to stay optimistic. Hug your kids a little longer; maybe spend a little more time praying that tomorrow would be a better day. [my emphasis]
The passage is fundamentally important to the logic of the speech–and indeed, Mitt’s entire campaign–both because it pretends Mitt understands the struggles of average people and because it suggests Obama failed to deliver on Hope and Change.
And at the core of the passage are $9 jobs that don’t pay enough to live on.
Which is funny, because just a few hours earlier, the Founder of Staples, Thomas Stemberg, bragged about Mitt’s role in this:
The truth is Mitt was not a typical investor. He was a true partner. Where some saw an unproven new business, he saw a store that could save people money. He recognized that efficiency creates consumer value. He never looked at Staples as merely a financial investment. He saw the engine of prosperity it could become.
Today Staples employs nearly 90,000 people. It has over 2,000 stores. Over 50 distribution centers.
The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples EasyTech Associate is $8.89. The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples Sales Associate is $8.54.
Those jobs Mitt talked about as a symbol of America’s failed promise, the ones that don’t pay a living wage? That’s what Mitt’s campaign boasted about last night as his idea of an “engine of prosperity.”
And it was an engine of prosperity, for Mitt, for Stemberg. Mitt’s worth at least $250 million. Stemberg is reportedly worth $202 million. And they got that money by running an engine of prosperity that relies on workers who are Mitt’s own example of the failure of the American dream. “This just wasn’t right,” Mitt said himself. (Not to mention that some of the steel jobs Mitt destroyed probably were $22.50 an hour jobs, with benefits.)
And look at the solution Mitt imagines for these Americans in the dead-end jobs he created. Not joining a union, the historically proven way to improve dead-end jobs. But work harder, cut back on expenses.
And, vote for Mitt Romney, the guy who destroyed those $22.50 an hour jobs and replaced them with $9 an hour ones.
The RNC spent a lot of time this week appealing to small business owners. Indeed, those small business owners are the customers whose prosperity Stemberg imagines Staples serving.
But to a large and increasing number of American people, Mitt’s actually arguing that he should be President so he can solve the problem he got phenomenally rich by causing in the first place.
Working America member Sarah Baldwin describes why outsourcing is detrimental to North Carolina: “High Point has been hit hard by outsourcing, affecting many workers. With loss jobs, people loss income, health care coverage and sometimes even their homes. Senator Burr’s vote on the Bring Jobs Home Act shows he is not looking out for the average person.”
Added Scott Gillentine of Winston-Salem: “North Carolina has one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation. Please explain to me, Senator Burr, why there are tax cuts on the wealthy when so few jobs have been created by them?”
Yesterday, Working America teamed up with the AFL-CIO and progressive allies to deliver the petitions to Senator Burr’s office. Everyone was excited to collaborate and to ensure that Senator Burr looks out for the interest of his middle class constituents.
Earlier in the day, Senator Kay Hagan received thank you letters from working families expressing their gratitude for her votes to end outsourcing and end tax subsidies for the richest Americans.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis sends us this.
Today, I want to extend my warmest wishes to you, the working men and women of America. You remain the beating heart of the greatest middle class in the world. Thank you for your commitment, your talent, your hard work and your service to this country. On behalf of everyone at the Department of Labor, I’m honored to wish all of you a great Labor Day.
Every day, you are creating an America built to last by harvesting our food, building our automobiles, constructing our buildings, providing energy for our homes and caring for our loved ones. Labor Day is our opportunity to honor that work, and that means standing up and speaking out and taking pride in what we do. You show us that each of us makes a profound contribution to our communities and our nation with the work we do; because the work of every person is built on the work of another, we all rely on one another. Work connects us all.
Labor Day is the celebration of a promise fulfilled. For generations, the promise of good jobs, fair treatment and wages and a seat at the bargaining table has sustained the economic security of America’s vital middle class.
Labor Day is also a call to action, a reminder that we must defend that promise to ensure that dignity and opportunity remain the birthright of all workers in this country.
We know what’s at stake, and we know what we have to do.
We’ve come so far in the last three-and-a-half years, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We were bleeding more than 800,000 jobs a month when President Obama took office. But over the last 29 months, we’ve created 4.5 million private-sector jobs. We must continue to get people back to work. You stand with President Obama to support his call for investments that will fix our crumbling roads, bridges, airports and schools; prevent more layoffs of teachers and first responders; and keep more police and firefighters on the beat.
Some say that we can’t afford unions right now, that labor unions are the problem in this country. But I think they’ve got it just plain wrong. Unions helped build America’s middle class. You are now—and always will be—part of the solution.
That is chiefly because you speak with one voice to demand dignity, respect and good jobs for everyone—jobs with strong safety and health standards; protections against wage theft, discrimination and employee misclassification; and a voice at the workplace.
For me, this Labor Day has added meaning. My dad, who was a proud union member, passed away this year. When I was in ninth grade, he would come home and ask me to sit with him at our kitchen table. From his pockets, he pulled pieces of paper with writing in Spanish on them. They were scribbled messages from co-workers: safety grievances, questions about paychecks that didn’t add up and ideas about how to improve the productivity of the line.
He’d ask me to translate them into English. When I asked what they were, he explained: “They are the voice of the workers.” It was from him, as a young girl, that I learned about the critical need for workers to have a seat at the table.
Today, I honor his memory with a call for unity and strength—a commitment to keep building on our achievements to meet the urgent needs of working families.
One thing is certain: the promise of the great American worker will never be broken. Working together, there’s no challenge we can’t overcome.
Bashing unions and working people seems to be the unifying theme of the 2012 Republican National Convention (RNC) held in Tampa, Fla., this week.
Josh Eidelson wrote for Salon that the RNC’s choice of speakers and agenda is “a full-on embrace of the same anti-union agenda that helped earn Scott Walker and Nikki Haley their Tuesday night speaking slots.”
The new platform reflects a Republican Party even more hostile to organized labor than the one that nominated John McCain four years ago.
Some examples of this extreme anti-union agenda, Eidelson writes, includes the GOP’s obsession with creating a national “right to work” for less law, ending Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) and bashing public sector unions. The Republican platform, approved Tuesday, aims to scale back on President Obama’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and reverse National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB’s) “modest moves to strengthen organizing rights, and to remain steadfast in opposing the Employee Free Choice Act.”
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels cemented his conservative rock star role by signing a “Right to Work” law in February. But in a sign of its lightning rod status, some of the GOP’s most prominent anti-union swing state governors, including Michigan’s Rick Snyder and Wisconsin’s (then pre-recall) Scott Walker, have claimed not to want “Right to Work” fights in their states.
The new platform also takes a more hostile stance towards construction unions, demanding “an end to the Project Labor Agreements” and “repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.” Both PLAs and Davis-Bacon establish wage standards for construction projects, making it easier for contractors that use union labor to compete with cheaper non-union contractors for work (Davis-Bacon covers federal contracts; PLAs are project-specific agreements). That’s not all they have in common: Both have drawn support from dozens of current House Republicans, stymieing legislative attacks. Among those who’ve voted to defend Davis-Bacon in the past? Paul Ryan, whose family runs its construction company with union labor. While the new platform calls for abolishing PLAs and Davis-Bacon, neither was mentioned in the 2008 document.
Last night, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, accepted the nomination with a speech that took place in a world of his own making. The breathtaking dishonesty of Ryan’s speech seems to have shocked a lot of journalists and observers.
A lot of outlets talked around the “L” word. The Associated Press fact-check used the term “factual shortcuts” and said Ryan “strayed from reality,” while USA Today came closer by saying Ryan’s speech “contained several false claims and misleading statements.” But let’s say it outright: Paul Ryan lied. He lied, deliberately, about a lot of things.
It’s especially galling because Rep. Ryan has acquired an undeserved reputation in Washington as a “serious” guy, a courageous teller of bold truths. One hopes that the straight-shooting Paul Ryan myth will fade away after last night. We’ll see.
Jonathan Chait points out that it’s not just the individual errors and misinformation that are the problem with Ryan’s speech:
His deep dishonesty largely reflects the fundamental gap between the radicalism of his agenda and his need for public acceptance…even if all the smaller component dishonesties of Ryan’s speech were true, the larger points they undergirded were false as well.
The most straightforwardly black-is-white lie in Ryan’s speech concerned the GM plant in Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. Ryan attacked Obama for the plant ceasing operations. But the decision to end production in Janesville was made in 2008—before President Obama came into office and implemented a rescue plan for the auto industry. In December of 2008, before Obama’s inauguration, GM shut down nearly all operations at Janesville, laying off around 1,200 workers and leaving only about 50 there to complete an order.
It is true that, after having halted nearly all operations at the plant in 2008, GM considered Janesville as one possible location to start producing again in 2009; the plant was “on standby.” But the important thing to note here is that had Romney been president at the time, we know what he would have done, because he wrote it out starkly: “let Detroit go bankrupt.” That would have meant the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs—and the disappointment felt in Janesville would only have been more widespread. If Ryan is making an argument for a bigger, more comprehensive federal government investment in the auto industry, I’d be curious to hear that argument. What it seems like is happening is that he’s casting blame to score a political point—and arguing by assertion that things will get better because of him and Romney, which is exactly the kind of shallow promise Ryan claimed he doesn’t believe in.
There are at least four other major lies in Ryan’s speech, notes Jonathan Cohn, who points out that it’s striking to see a major convention speech this dependent on completely false premises. Dylan Matthews identifies more misleading statements.
And just to pull out another: Ryan called the Recovery Act a corrupt bill that left out “working men and women of this country,” despite the fact that the Recovery Act helped stop the utter collapse of jobs and offered almost $300 billion in middle-class tax cuts. You know who doesn’t believe this talking point about the Recovery Act? Paul Ryan, who apparently thought the bill was so corrupt and useless that he requested funds from it to help his district.
The Republican candidates are cleverly exploiting widespread distrust and disillusionment with politics—as David Dayen notes, they know that every debunking of their points will get blurred with fresh misinformation. And they have the benefit of an active media apparatus that reports entirely on the “parallel universe” where their claims take place.
But even if fact-checking can’t shame the shameless Romney and Ryan, it’s still worth calling out the dishonesty when we see it. It helps us understand who these candidates are and what they think of us.
You don’t give a pitch this dishonest to people whose intelligence you respect. You don’t call out empty promises on one hand and promise you’ll magically fix the economy with upper-class tax cuts on the other. And you don’t say that “working men and women of this country” were “cut out of the deal” when the deal you’re offering them is the upward redistribution of the Romney-Ryan plan.