Labor Day: Bernie Sanders Surges Because He Speaks To Workers' Demands

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Bernie Sanders 

The Most Important Labor Day since 1872

Labor Day always seems to come too soon. The summer flies by and many people regret not taking more time off during the warmer months.

But, when it takes two family members working overtime – if both can get jobs - to earn the living that one could make a generation ago, it’s remarkable that anybody has the time to take a vacation at all.

Labor Day began in Canada in 1872, when a march by 10,000 Toronto workers convinced the government to legalize unions, and eventually establish a nine-hour workday.The march was later commemorated with an annual parade, and the practice soon spread to the United States.

For many years Labor Day has been a time to celebrate union victories of the past.

But this Labor Day we’d do better to prepare for the battles ahead, because, today, an increasing number of employees work way more than 40-hours a week, but still struggle to make ends meet while well-financed anti-worker forces are working hard to make unions a thing of the past.

It’s no secret that it’s getting harder to earn a living; and, workers have lost all faith in the ability of the political parties to deliver on their supposed support for working families.Which begs the question: How can unions continue to support the parties that have been disassembling the labor movement right before our eyes; sending jobs overseas; and eliminating regulations that protect workers?Many people in the labor movement are concluding that we can’t.

That’s one reason the campaigns of Tom Mulcair the labor-oriented NDP leader running for prime minister in Canada, and Bernie Sanders an Independent running for the Democratic presidential nomination in the U.S. have caught fire, attracting a surprising amount of support.

Both leaders have toiled on the fringes of the political spectrum for some time, but have attracted supporters and become serious contenders because of their views on creating equal economic opportunities for all, treating workers fairly, and fighting the wealth gap.

This is an especially urgent question for Canadians as the Conservative policies of the Harper government have led the nation down the path to recession; and it’s important to Americans where income inequality continues. Bernie Sanders has generated a great deal of excitement in the U.S. by articulating the truth that working people already know, and other candidates are afraid to say.

That we shouldn’t just preserve Social Security – we should increase it.

That Wall Street and the giant global financial interests just got away with the biggest bank robbery in history – and we’re all paying for it.

That it’s the insatiable financial demands of our never-ending foreign wars that are unsustainable – not the purchase of a bus, or the modest pension of a retired government worker.

To those who say that unions should not endorse candidates who are unlikely to win, I ask, ‘Where has all of the support we’ve given to establishment politicians gotten us?’ Not far; and, frankly, we’ve lost more than we’ve gained over the last seven years.

Despite our support, Democrats have not provided Labor and working families with a seat at the table when federal economic and labor policies have been hammered out.

But, while ATU supports Tom Mulcair and the New Democratic Party in the Canada’s national election, October 19, the U.S. election is over a year away.

U.S. Labor is watching the candidates closely, and union members will support the woman or man in 2016, who will commit to specific proposals to improve the lives of working families, rather than issuing nuanced expressions of support that can be easily disregarded once elected; and that process starts right now – which could make this Labor Day the most important since 1872.

Larry Hanley is Amalgamated Transit Union International President

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