*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
Any human being who has ever ran a business, unless it is completely “owner-operated,” comprehends that without a labor force, no matter how small, they have no business, no profit (capital) and no chance of surviving in a capitalistic economy. In fact, it was a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who said that “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
That idea that labor was more important than capital was once adhered to by most Republicans down through the decades and certainly included more than just “uttering a few kind words about the workforce once a year on Labor Day.” It is true. Republicans used to support and embrace poor-worker and pro-labor policies that continued into the 1950s when another Republican president, this time Dwight D. Eisenhower, actually battled for an economy that was robust and fair including taking care of workers. Eisenhower Republicans fought to “clarify and strengthen eight-hour overtime laws to help all workers,” and were strong advocates for vigorously maintaining and “extending the administration of prevailing wage laws for federal workers and protect more effectively the rights of labor unions.” It was in 1956 that an official plank of the Republican Party platform was “The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration.”
Now, Republicans have completely reversed course and besides working with ALEC and the Koch brothers to destroy unions, are adamant that the prevailing wage laws are communist and the minimum wage is an abomination of epic proportion enacted to destroy America. The last decent Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, seemed to understand that there would come a time when his party would deny labor any rights and warned that there were already politicians “who hold some foolish dream of spinning the clock back to days when unorganized labor was a huddled, almost helpless mass. Only a handful of unreconstructed reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions. Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.”
Today the fools are Donald Trump-led Republicans who began viciously attacking labor about the same time Republican demigod Ronald Reagan began attacking American workers to elevate the wealthy and usher in the oligarchy plaguing the economy today. Donald Trump has made it clear in several campaign speeches that in his Republican oligarch’s mind, wages are too high, unions have to go, and it is long-past the time to abolish the 85-year old Davis-Bacon Act guaranteeing prevailing wage pay for all workers on federal projects.
In fact, the official Republican Party platform no-one seems to notice reverses everything Republicans once championed for labor. It wants, like Donald Trump, to completely abolish the federal minimum wage and allow states and localities to set their own standards. Keep in mind that in Republican-controlled states and localities they have passed laws forbidding raising the minimum wage, offering sick leave or vacation pay. In Koch-controlled Wisconsin, Republican Scott Walker attempted to pass legislation eliminating weekends and the idea of overtime pay after 40 hours.
The GOP platform also strongly promotes a national “right-to-work” law like those that are crushing union labor in Republican-controlled states across the South. The platform also attacked worker protection laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act and lashed out at the Project Labor Agreements because it has the potential of raising worker wages and improving working conditions.
Even though it may appear that Republicans are aligning with Trump’s anti-labor agenda, they have been working behind the scenes to undermine labor and elevate the storied “job creators” for some time. Actually, it was about four years ago today that instead of celebrating the efforts of labor on a day set aside to honor working Americans, then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor officially made the 2012 Republican Labor Day celebration about honoring the sacrifice of corporate CEOs, billionaire investors and overbearing executive managers; the GOP rejected honoring the people responsible for making the businesses succeed.
The Republican standard bearer Trump has occasionally attempted to define himself as the workers’ champion, but his claims that wages are too damn high and are allowing China to dominate America belie any sense that he has an ounce of regard for the workforce. Trump seriously revealed his anti-labor bona fides by tapping disgusting anti-Union Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate. It was another signal that Trump is completely behind the Republican attempts to destroy union labor and the living wages they earn and produce the exact same catastrophic results Americans have witnessed from Scott Walker and the Koch brothers in Wisconsin.
Republicans have been at war with working Americans since Ronald Reagan was president when the party decided all of their energy and devotion was better spent on elevating the wealthiest Americans. Men like Willard Romney and House Speaker Paul Ryan regard corporate CEOs and billionaire investors as “makers” that have been forced by workers’ rights laws to suffer the injustice of having to pay anything to those worthless “takers;” the people that most Americans regard as hardworking and responsible for building and maintaining America’s economy.
It is a travesty that at one time Republicans were aligned with Democrats in advancing the interests of the workforce, and they likely really believed in the Department of Labor’s (DOL) interpretation of why the “worker” holiday should be a celebration. According to the DOL, Labor Day is the holiday “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” And is set aside on the first Monday of every September as a “yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
With Donald Trump carrying the GOP standard as its leader, and the Republican National convention official platform putting workers’ rights on the same level as the dreaded ISIS, Republicans will be celebrating ‘anti-labor’ day this year. And, they are completely comfortable in the knowledge that ignorant Americans are unaware of the impending slavery awaiting them if Republicans gain control of the entire federal government. Happy Labor Day!
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.