Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Frances Perkins Gave Us The Blueprint

On a night in February 1933, Frances Perkins sat in front of the newly elected 32nd president of the United States as he told her that he wanted her to be the new Secretary of Labor. Perkins told President Franklin Roosevelt she would take the job if she could do it her way. Perkins wanted: a 40-hour work week, minimum wage, work compensation, unemployment compensation, a federal law banning child labor, direct federal aid for unemployment relief, Social Security, a revitalized public employment service, and health insurance. The opposition to Perkins demands came from courts, businesses, labor unions--yes, labor unions, conservatives, and the chamber of commerce. Even with all this opposition against Perkins, a lot was accomplished. Today, we are trying to protect our Social Security, which we pay into, and even to expand it. We also want to go back to providing free college, like we used to have before politicians, like California Governor Ronald Reagan, redirected the money for free college to give tax breaks to corporations. We’re also fighting for a minimum wage of $15 an hour when, in reality, it would be closer to $24 an hour had it kept up with inflation. Climate change is a real concern, especially for our future generations, and we don’t want them living in a dystopian world like the Mad Max movies portray of a polluted world with its resources depleted, and the people fighting over the crumbs leftover from the rich. Then we have the concerns regarding healthcare, protecting pensions, allowing workers to unionize, eliminating private prisons, reinstating Glass-Steagall Act and the Voter Rights Act. Now, if we could do what they did in the 1930-‘40s, why in the hell can’t we? Maybe we don’t have a president or political party that supports us. Maybe, they would rather support Wall Street, the big banks and the oligarchies. We, the 99 percent, have much better tools today to make the changes needed than the people in 1933. These changes should be a world movement. All of Europe, Russia, Ukraine, the Middle East, all of South of America, Greece, Italy, are in the same situation as we are. The International Workers of the World (IWW) saw the needs for these changes in the 1920s and ‘30s. It is time for the 99 percent to receive a new bill of rights that include the rights listed above. An American labor leader, Eugene V. Debs, said in a speech before the IWW conference on June 2, 1894: “The forces of labor must unite, the dividing lines must grow dimmer day by day until they become imperceptible, and labor hosts, marshaled under one conquering banner, shall march together, vote together and fight together, until working people shall receive and enjoy all fruits of their toil--such an army would be impregnable. No corporation would assail it. The reign of justice would be inaugurated. The strike would be remanded to the relic chamber of the past. An era of goodwill and peace would dawn.” Could the revolution that Senator Bernie Sanders started be the one?