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Excerpt: "Perhaps there would still be something to celebrate on Labor Day if government was coming to the rescue. But Washington is paralyzed, the President seems unwilling or unable to take on labor-bashing Republicans, and several Republican governors are mounting direct assaults on organized labor (see Indiana, Ohio, Maine, and Wisconsin, for example)."

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

March in Protest on Labor Day

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

25 August 11


This Labor Day we need protest marches rather than parades.

abor Day is traditionally a time for picnics and parades. But this year is no picnic for American workers, and a protest march would be more appropriate than a parade.

Not only are 25 million unemployed or underemployed, but American companies continue to cut wages and benefits. The median wage is still dropping, adjusted for inflation. High unemployment has given employers extra bargaining leverage to wring out wage concessions.

All told, it's been the worst decade for American workers in a century. According to Commerce Department data, private-sector wage gains over the last decade have even lagged behind wage gains during the decade of the Great Depression (4 percent over the last ten years, adjusted for inflation, versus 5 percent from 1929 to 1939).

Big American corporations are making more money, and creating more jobs, outside the United States than in it. If corporations are people, as the Supreme Court's twisted logic now insists, most of the big ones headquartered here are rapidly losing their American identity.

CEO pay, meanwhile, has soared. The median value of salaries, bonuses and long-term incentive awards for CEOs at 350 big American companies surged 11 percent last year to $9.3 million (according to a study of proxy statements conducted for The Wall Street Journal by the management consultancy Hay Group). Bonuses have surged 19.7 percent.

This doesn't even include all those stock options rewarded to CEOs at rock-bottom prices in 2008 and 2009. Stock prices have ballooned since then, the current downdraft notwithstanding. In March, 2009, for example, Ford CEO Alan Mulally received a grant of options and restricted shares worth an estimated $16 million at the time. But Ford is now showing large profits - in part because the UAW agreed to allow Ford to give its new hires roughly half the wages of older Ford workers - and its share prices have responded. Mulally's 2009 grant is now worth over $200 million.

The ratio of corporate profits to wages is now higher than at any time since just before the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, the American economy has all but stopped growing - in large part because consumers (whose spending is 70 percent of GDP) are also workers whose jobs and wages are under assault.

Perhaps there would still be something to celebrate on Labor Day if government was coming to the rescue. But Washington is paralyzed, the President seems unwilling or unable to take on labor-bashing Republicans, and several Republican governors are mounting direct assaults on organized labor (see Indiana, Ohio, Maine, and Wisconsin, for example).

So let's bag the picnics and parades this Labor Day. American workers should march in protest. They're getting the worst deal they've had since before Labor Day was invented - and the economy is suffering as a result.

Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including "The Work of Nations," "Locked in the Cabinet," "Supercapitalism" and his latest book, "AFTERSHOCK: The Next Economy and America's Future." His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on and iTunes. your social media marketing partner


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+15 # dr. labwitch 2011-08-25 15:39
no way! this is ft worth tx, you march they freak out and people get hurt. texas IS HELL! i can say that i was born and raised here. luckily i got out early, sadly, my husband's job moved us back.
+50 # PGreen 2011-08-25 15:45
If I remember rightly, Noam Chomsky once wrote that Labor day was made a U.S. national holiday to minimize the influence of "May Day," the original labor holiday, also called International Workers' Day, commemorating the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago. Chomsky said he saw May Day celebrated as a labor holiday by a group of 1rst generation immigrants in Boston, but noted that the majority of the US public has lost touch with its labor history. Ironic.
Nevertheless, what Reich calls for here is a good thing. We need to let the current administration know, non-violently, but actively, that we won't let them drive us into poverty and non-existence.
0 # Wordslinger 2011-08-25 16:21
Reich is dead wrong about Obama being "unable or unwilling to take-on republican labor bashers."

Obama knows what he's doing and has known all along. He's chosen big money over the people. When will Reich wake-up?
+13 # propsguy 2011-08-25 19:04
i can't help but agree with you. faced with the options the obama is either weak and stupid or has always been a cleverly disguised tool of the financial industry, i have to go with the latter since i don't think he is stupid.
it has been painful to watch him misstep at every turn and blow the political capital and goodwill he was handed. i can only think it has been by design.
i remember walking home the night of the election. people were literally dancing in the streets of NYC, like it was new years only friendlier. it was as if the yoke of the oppression of the past 8 years had been lifted and people felt that it was ok to talk to their neighbors again.
nobody feels that way now.
but i don't think it's fair to accuse mr reich of being asleep. he does say that the president is "unwilling or unable"- he allows for the possibility that obama may not want the change he promised
+8 # John Talbutt 2011-08-25 19:45
He was calling for a mass protest by working people.
+1 # racetoinfinity 2011-08-26 02:32
Quoting Wordslinger:
Reich is dead wrong about Obama being "unable or unwilling to take-on republican labor bashers."

Obama knows what he's doing and has known all along. He's chosen big money over the people. When will Reich wake-up?

Well, he said "or unwilling"; that covers it.
+3 # Alan D. Kardoff 2011-08-26 09:05
After Reich gives up the House and Pelosi cracks the whip again. Boehner has screwed up more than she ever did, in terms of putting America over party. Yet he has not been villified. Barack will be okay after vetoing a few GOP bills. Peacmakers don't survive. Fighters like Clinton do.
+26 # midwegian 2011-08-25 16:24
“Before all else, we seek, upon our common labor as a nation, the blessings of Almighty God” — Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th president of US 1953-1961 (1890-1969) … How would this superb general and commander in chief comment on the condition of today’s work force? America’s iron-willed workers are still ready, willing and able, but their tools have been taken away, their hopes shattered, their decency turned against them. Shame!
+8 # cherylpetro 2011-08-25 16:33
I LOVE Robert Reich, but I have to disagree with him on the President getting involved in the states issues right now, when he has his hands MORE than full of problems with which to deal on a National level! The wonderful, inspirational people of Wisconsin have been truly effective on their own! I don't think it is for a lack of caring on Pres. Obama's part; I think it is a matter of priority, and necessity! You don't pull the pitcher when he has a no hitter going! I think he would get directly involved if the situation became dire. (Besides who knows what he has done behind the scenes?)
+10 # propsguy 2011-08-25 19:09
i disagree. i think it was deplorable and cowardly that he remained out of sight while michigan and wisconsin took a step toward fascism. he is the president; he should lead. had there been a hurricane in a part of the country and the president been slow to show his face touring the rubble, he would have been called out for it.
how dare he claim to be on the side of the american people and not visit the site of a disaster!
0 # Amaras 2011-08-25 20:41
I totally agree with you!
+5 # fredboy 2011-08-25 16:34
Might be a good time to hand out courage pills.
-2 # MidwestTom 2011-08-25 16:35
The administration can't do much about jobs. The Dollar is too strong for our exports to grow. To really create jobs the dollar must come down, but that will make anything imported considerably more expensive, until they lower wages in current low wage countries. The only companies able to pay good wages now are those with unique products that cannot be made or produced more economically overseas, and those connected to agriculture. however, the highest average pays are on Wall Street and in the Federal Government.
+20 # propsguy 2011-08-25 19:12
no, to create jobs, you can pass laws that penalize corporations who send jobs overseas, you tack high tariffs onto goods sold by american companies but made with slave labor in FTZs; you close corporate loopholes. you use that money to make things here that people can buy here. then it doesn't matter what the dollar is doing in relationship to other places
+1 # w 2011-08-29 10:08
Propsguy, I agree with a lot of what you have to say in this comment section...and I hope you'll agree with me and hold your nose and vote for our VERY disappointing President next year.

I'm voting for him for two reasons: 1) There is no progressive alternative; and, 2) Another conservative appointed to the SCOTUS would presage a 2nd burning of the Reichstag, if you know what I mean....

I was hoping Kucinich would run in a primary to state the Progressive case, but even Dennis knows not to weaken Obama now. Who knows, maybe as a lame duck he'll have the courage of his convictions (yeah, I doubt it, too).

Feingold in 2016!!!
+23 # JenS 2011-08-25 16:43
Mr. Reich talks theoretically about a demonstration - which I think is a great idea - but where and when needs to be organized and stated.
+13 # Jdog 2011-08-25 18:19
Well, it'll be after Labor Day, but people that are interested in demonstrating might google "october2011.or g" That might turn out to be a very worthy undertaking indeed. Corporatism is choking the life out of all of us, and it is time to start fighting back
+4 # racetoinfinity 2011-08-26 02:35
"Corporatism is choking the life out of all of us, and it is time to start fighting back"

You said it!!
+8 # Sewall-Mueller 2011-08-25 19:35
I'm all for a demonstration. When do we start planning??? Where??? Shall each state march on it's Capitol? One mass demonstration at the White House?
+4 # dr. labwitch 2011-08-25 16:52
only if the cops in ft worth promise to just stand there and look like the fat people & women they are. just stay out of the fight! there wouldn't be one if we were tp's. tp's & christian fundies rule in texas. sad, once texas gave us pretty good politicians, then, it all stopped.
+2 # racetoinfinity 2011-08-26 02:37
Karl Rove might have had a hand in that along with others who gerrymandered districts.
+17 # Carolhop1 2011-08-25 17:09
Sometimes it takes only a suggestion to create a movement. I, for one, would be thrilled to participate in a Labor Day Unity with Workers event. COUNT ME IN.
+11 # jtom 2011-08-25 17:17
Google ALEC this group was formed around 1975 Nixon had a meeting at TanTerra resort in Missouri to start killing the Unions. At the time I was working in Texas on refinery and the meeting was the talk of the job.
+7 # midwegian 2011-08-25 18:53
Carl Gibson of wrote an excellent article published on ReaderSupported News re: American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), "a shadowy partnership between Republican legislators and corporate lobbyists." (Carl Gibson's words) See this website to read the article:
+5 # charles leone 2011-08-25 17:39
Rome Burned While Nero Fiddled,
Obama Strutted and Babbled on.
Hey Democrats, Obama is, was and will always be Wall Street until you force him to resign. Billionaire George Soros funded his rise in politics and now, Billionaire Warren Buffet who just saved the most corrupt Bank in (of) America with a $5 billion investment from going under is going to hold a fundraiser for Obama in NYC celebrating his illegal decision to shut down the investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of Wall Street Big Banks!!!
+7 # propsguy 2011-08-25 19:18
yes, one wonders what will be the last straw. i gave up on him over the health insurance mandate, something so blatantly unconstitutiona l that it's hard to imagine that a president who is a constitutional scholar would have agreed to it.
but the hits just keep on coming. he betrayed elizabeth warren. why are we surprised that he's hung schneiderman out to dry.
bush was a scumbag but at least you knew that. how could i have come to this point where i have to admit to having more respect for bush, who at least had the courage of his convictions, evil as they were, than obama who seems to have no convictions?
+5 # manacha 2011-08-25 19:20
You are absolutely right!! Too bad readers here do not believe what you say. If it were not so, if Obama were a real Democrat, then all that could be said about him it is that he is one of the most incompetent presidents we ever had. In either case, he should resign and let someone else take the Democratic nomination.
+1 # midwegian 2011-08-25 18:46
Take a look at !! USUncut is an organization devoted to civil activism! They offer a free posting for your "Actions" and "Targets". Non-violence, smarts, and persistence can carry the day!
+4 # hankbob 2011-08-25 19:08
I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore...oh yeah that's not us...I was referring to those uncivilized, barbaric Brits.
+6 # Clayton Stouffer 2011-08-25 19:32
here is nothing further to discuss. It is a time for action. Just let me know where a protest demo will occur on Labor Day and I will be there with friends. I can get to San Jose, Santa Cruz and SF.

Also, go to to support the orgs that are fighting to overturn the treasonous Supreme Court decision on the CITIZENS UNITED case.
+10 # wfalco 2011-08-25 19:37
I am all for marching and raising hell (within most of the limits of the law) to wake up this country and its angry but anesthetized citizens.
Organization is important in these matters of protest. What has always bothered me is that leftist groups tend to lose focus and what typically occurs is loonyville. Every group from gay activists, to environmentalis ts, to the women's movemnt, anti-war, ethical treatment of animals..etc..e tc. gets involved. Not that there is anything wrong with that as most of us would agree with causes that are represented.
But the sleepy masses get confused and more angry. And then their anger becomes misdirected...t he looney left is to blame. It appears we are out of control.
The point is if we could only organize around a specific cause (which right now is the economy and JOBS)-it might work.
+5 # angelfish 2011-08-25 20:22
All Labor Day is these days is another excuse to have a Bar-B-que. However, I DO believe if folks were able to get organized, pick a date, time and place, they would show up in DROVES to voice their disgust and despair over what is being done to our Country! We MUST do this and send the Fascists in Washington a LOUD, CLEAR message that they DON'T speak for the Majority and saying they do doesn't make it so! Their's was an America that was rePudiated by REAL Americans, paid for in Blood by our bravest and best, many of them needlessly slain on the Altar of Bush's Ignorance and Cheney's Vanity! The Labor Unions gave a man a decent wage, a decent work day and benefits befitting a hard working American who deserves to be treated as a MAN, NOT a slave! My Grandfather told me of the days before Unions, when he worked sixty (60) hours a week and if the Boss man told him to work more, he said, "Yes sir, Boss"! Thank God, those days are GONE! BUT. The one thing that has remained, is the Greedy, Penurious, "Plantation" Mind Set of the Ruling Class Owners who want to bring back the Company Store and keep people under their thumb. It didn't work then and it won't work now! So we best get busy and think about organizing a rally of some kind. Perhaps on the National Mall to Wake them and shake them out of their "Pipe Dream". "Screw me once, shame on you, screw me twice..."? NEVER again!
0 # racetoinfinity 2011-08-26 02:40
Right-on!! Good comment!!
0 # KittatinyHawk 2011-08-26 16:08
There are quite a few Marches going on. One is starting in Ct to Washington. Others are in Cities across USA on Pipeline, Jobs, so perhaps getting involved in something besides blogs would actually do some good for USA.
+4 # midwegian 2011-08-25 20:22
Tip O'Neill, Democratic statesman, champion of the working class, supporter of universal health care (under Carter) and survivor of the Great Depression, gave us all the advice we really need. ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL! Instead of marching on state capitols, we need to agitate, discuss, question, and be harmless nuisances in our hometowns, neighborhoods, community centers, PTOs, library book clubs, farm equipment repair shops, and Starbucks. We can't wait around for a political cruise ship; it's time to launch whatever you have that'll float & dig those paddles in!
-3 # XLIB 2011-08-25 23:18
That's exactly right. What this country needs is more harmless nuisances to distract us from trying to solve our problems.
+1 # tarantilla 2011-08-25 20:53
Marching on labor day is a good idea. But, as the Republicans (and the Yippee's before them) understand, publicity is key. Crazy ideas need to be stated. The march should be ANTI-LABOR, with signs like "OUTSOURCE PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER JOBS!", and "PUBLIC MONEY TO COMPANIES FOR JOBS!", etc. You get the idea.
+3 # Joanna 2011-08-25 22:21
Organize, organize, organize, Martin Luther King made it happen and so can we.
Peaceful Persistence.... ..An unbeatable foe. We either respond to the call of Robert Riech or we accept facism. Corporations direct Government and Government directs work force slavery by leaving an unregulated lawless environment for Corporations to function. Nothing new hear folks, only forgotten history repeating itself with regularity.
+3 # Julian Kernes 2011-08-26 08:20
The big money has many people who work for low wages with little time to check facts convinced it's the Union's fault some how claiming Unions are run by organized crime. I guess they get their history lessons from entertaining crime action movies and TV shows. Few people know the full history of the Boston Tea Party. Colony taxes went to the British East India Co. so they could sell product below what colony farmers and merchants could afford to sell.

One key point your article says: "Meanwhile, the American economy has all but stopped growing - in large part because consumers (whose spending is 70 percent of GDP) are also workers whose jobs and wages are under assault." If you don't have money you can't buy to support community based businesses. Living off of credit only lasts so long. Interest payments added on the cost of something you thought you were getting at a good price could almost double the price.

If people don't have to work multiple jobs because of bad pay and no benefits and get Union pay and benefits, then more jobs would be open for more people to work, then more people have time to enjoy life with family and friends and contribute to their community without feeling so overburdened.
+2 # Julian Kernes 2011-08-26 08:20
I have to say thanks for the interference in the free market fantasy world by our government that the building I live in meets government standards to withstand earthquakes.
+2 # reiverpacific 2011-08-26 09:04
This is THE Great American Holiday and remembrance of it's contribution to the greater well-being of the working people worldwide.
Unfortunately, the term "Working Class" seems to be a badge of inferiority these days whereas, when goods were actually being MADE here and small-business opportunities really existed, it connoted a living wage and decent benefits.
Now it tends to mean a minimum wage burger-flipper, slave to Walmart or extremely dispensable retail "associate"; indeed, hardly badges of honor.
Funnily enough, what passes for "Middle class" jobs are hardly more meaningful -just suits or "business-casua l" but equally dispensable drones with a very narrow set of skills and strangely esoteric titles imposed on them by their corporate masters, in sterile environments which stifle any kind of creativity and tend to foster mean-spiritedne ss (I imagine that this is encouraged my upper and middle-manageme nts" as a self-control mechanism).
And don't even get me started on what has happened to the small-business community, formerly the backbone of the country (I'm one of them, -what's left of me and my enterprises).
In this environment, Labor Day is just another (probably grudgingly-gran ted) day off from the grey existence of those who still have what passes for jobs and totally meaningless in it's true historical context as a day of pride.
+2 # Isar 2011-08-26 09:14
The ONLY march that counts is the one on election day in November 2012 when we throw out all of these Republicans who are Washington D.C. and our State Legislatures to protect the Richest people in the country. AND...while we're at it, let's throw out the Blue Dog Dems as well....I'm wondering if we really could change this country for the better is we just once tried Liberal Politics...just for one term even....What kind of difference would it make? Just wondering.
+1 # KittatinyHawk 2011-08-26 16:06
I do not know where Mr Reich is but Wisconsin is fighting back and very well. Ohio has now gotten signatures for petiton and perhaps starting their own Recall.

I told you once, I will say it not buy products from the Corporations crippling workers. Stop buying products from Koch Bros. Look into those in the other States and do a protest that takes notice...stop buying,

OB doesnot care about Us, Jobs, or Animals .... obviously not the planet. So let's get someone to run for President that has Integrity, Honesty, Ability to Stand up for Principles. We do not need another 4 years of the Bush Clone
+1 # DRPJJ 2011-08-26 18:13
The March would need a FOCUS. How about Obama NOT running, turning his campaign funds into debt reduction, and FIND A BETTER CANDIDATE to lead the country. Otherwise the GOP fascists will continue us on our way to being Third World. And if Michael doesn't like it, too bad they didn't live up to their rhetoric. She sure does know how to vacation though.
0 # Peasant 2011-08-27 11:39
This event isn't happening on Labor Day, it's on Sept. 16th. People are planning to occupy Wall Street, Tahrara Square style. Check out This isn't a one day protest, then go home. The plan is to LIVE there until the demands are met. The demands have not been agreed upon yet, but will be along the lines of an independent investigation of Wall Street banks engaged in fraud, in-sider trading, illegal influence over congress, bribery, stock price manipulation, you get the picture. When CEO's and their Board of Directors are found guilty, THEY GO TO JAIL! as well as pay heavy fines and repay those they have committed fraud against. Other demands on the table are breaking up the "too big to fail" banks, and re-instating the Glass-Stiegle act. The big question America ready for our own "Arab Spring".

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