Workplace democracy our key to future prosperity


From Dave Smith

I’ve long admired the life and thinking of author and talk show host Thom Hartmann (pictured here). He advocates a living wage, not a minimum wage, and a reversal of the gradual decimation of our middle class by raising our national wage so there is prosperity for all, not just the few. History proves his wisdom.

We cannot have full prosperity until our big businesses and institutions  accept the union democratic process of bargaining between equals. Prosperity does not trickle down, it bursts up from a well-paid citizenry. Bashing the unions during these trying times will do nothing but prolong our national financial agony. When Henry Ford grasped the fundamentals of how prosperity works in an industrial economy, he raised his workers wages so they could afford the cars they were building and the auto industry took off. He understood that everyone benefits when labor is paid a living wage… that effective demand is the key.

President Lincoln also understood this:

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.

In his article Needed: Workplace Democracy, Thom defends the union movement that, even with all its flaws, is fundamental to reversing the financial disaster caused by greed and lack of democratic values at the top, and years of anti-union, anti-regulation, and anti-middle-class policies.

Thom writes:

It took the Republican Great Depression to wake people up. It took Franklin D. Roosevelt to speak the truth. If a politician said the same things today that Roosevelt did in the 1930s – openly accusing big business of being anti-American and antiworker – he’d be accused of socialism and communism. Very few national figures have the courage to speak out today the way FDR did back then.

Roosevelt provided courageous leadership. In his first term, he had sent to Congress the National Industrial Recovery Act, which set standards for wages and working hours and established the right of laborers to organize. This set the stage for labor groups to bargain for wages and conditions. Thanks in large part to FDR’s work on behalf of labor, in the 25 years after World War II the real incomes of the middle class doubled.

Go to Thom Hartmann’s article Needed: Workplace Democracy


One Comment

Thom is correct as usual. I learned this from Fritz Maytag, when he told me it made good business sense to pay people well. His brewers and company employees stayed for years and Anchor Brewing had low turnover. That eliminated the cost of retraining. His latino workers in his vineyards also came back every year because he paid well. When they got there they knew their jobs.
I found, myself, that most people don’t want to be wealthy. They just want a living wage, i.e., enough to raise a family. After that it is the recognition for a good job that motivates most people.

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