The choice facing workers

2012-10-08T08:45:00Z The choice facing workersBy ROGER SMITH The Times and Democrat
October 08, 2012 8:45 am  • 

The election this November will be one of the most important in the lives of today’s workers.

As CEO of a company that employs more than 5,000 people, I know that the outcome will affect each and every one of them.

At virtually every back yard get-together these days, most workers discuss — and lament — the state of the economy. But not in the abstract terms we hear from politicians. These days, the economy is personal.

Those who still own homes are relieved that they can still host family and friends, of course. Their homes may be worth less than what they owe, but so far they’ve survived the fate of foreclosure. Another million workers won’t be so lucky next year.

For private-sector workers, stagnation and declines in real wages are a stark reality. Statistics show that if workers were paid in direct proportion to productivity gains over the last 12 years, the average wage would hover around $31.00 per hour instead of $10.28. That would be something to celebrate.

Construction workers are frustrated to see so little movement to rebuild our national infrastructure. They are frightened that the Project Labor Agreements they rely on to set fair work terms may soon disappear.

Public sector workers are losing their right to collective bargaining and being demonized for having had the audacity to negotiate pension benefits.

Our newest entrants to the labor force aren’t having a much better time. A twenty-something who chooses not to go to college will earn $225,000 less over his lifetime than his sister who did go — but she’ll leave college having racked up tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, in debt. And they’re both probably living with their parents.

Workers near retirement, meanwhile, are anxious that they won’t come close to maintaining their preretirement lifestyle. They’re also nervous about politicians’ talk of raising the retirement age, cutting Medicare and limiting Social Security. Somewhere today, a grandfather may tell the unemployed young woman sitting next to him that she can’t have his job because he can’t afford to retire.

For our nation’s 12 million unemployed workers, many of whom who have been looking for work for 40 weeks or more, the discussion often comes around to asking if anyone knows who is hiring. The entry point into the middle class is nowhere in sight.

Those are the conversations you’ll hear at backyard gatherings.

Here are our choices:

Will we build an economy that works for workers, or vote to empower the few at the expense of the many? Will we vote to elect a president whose policies are about investing in our future, putting people back to work, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, and honoring a worker’s right to organize and bargain collectively? Will we insist that social security not be placed in the hands of private investment banks?

Or will we vote to return to failed economic policies that protect the one percent at the expense of workers? Will we vote yes to proposed budget cuts that will suck demand out of our economy, resulting in millions more joining the ranks of the unemployed? Will we vote to return to outdated, outmoded and out-of-touch policies that serve only a wealthy few?

We are at a fork in the road.

Between now and November, it is my hope that the conversations we have steer us toward economic recovery.

Roger Smith is the President & CEO of American Income Life Insurance Co., which has more than 5,000 employees. He is a strong supporter of unions.

Copyright 2015 The Times and Democrat. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. pedingsgang
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    pedingsgang - October 12, 2012 4:23 pm
    Yes, I looked up Taft-Hartley :)

    Dang, google is ALMOST as good as encyclopedias!
  2. truthorjustice
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    truthorjustice - October 12, 2012 9:40 am
    Vote Libertarian.




    Stop the "Trickle up" poverty.
  3. truthorjustice
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    truthorjustice - October 09, 2012 7:48 pm
    Taft-Hartley, anyone?
  4. Easy
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    Easy - October 09, 2012 3:37 pm
    This administration also supported a law suit against S.C. to prevent JOBS from coming to SC. Obama claims he has tried to CREATE jobs, but what he REALLY means is that he has tried to ensure every job created is a UNION JOB! If you want a President who is for ALL Americans, all AMERICAN workers, who doesn't put caveats/limitations on freedom/the right to get & keep a job, ROMNEY is the only choice.
  5. Easy
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    Easy - October 09, 2012 3:35 pm
    The Choice facing Workers: 'Who is FOR the American Worker?' Obama believes that NO State should be a 'Right To Work' state & believes to be such a state should have to have the GOVERNMENT pass a law saying so. The right to get a job without being forced to join a union should AUTOMATICALLY be a 'right' of every worker. Also, during the Auto Bailout, Obama stripped 20,000 NON-Union workers of their pensions while protecting UNION worker pensions.
  6. mackyboy1983
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    mackyboy1983 - October 08, 2012 1:45 pm
    I hope we will vote for freedom, and against slavery!

    Romney/Ryan
  7. confisus_sum
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    confisus_sum - October 08, 2012 11:08 am
    With over 2.2 billion in assets, why don't you take some of your assets to help the middle class.
  8. Hambone
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    Hambone - October 08, 2012 10:23 am
    I agree we are at a crossroads. If you want jobs, a home, the American dream, vote for Romney/Ryan. If you want to work for minimum wage and support three of your neighbors for the rest of your life and your children's lives, vot for Obama/Biden!

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