The track record of the Democratic members of the Colorado congressional delegation—including the two U.S. senators—on labor issues is, at best, only fair. The Republican record is worse.
And those records probably won’t get any better for a long while.
To get anything done for working men and women, it is necessary that our elected representatives have the interest of those workers at heart. They must feel the pain of every unemployed, underemployed, underpaid and underappreciated man and woman in the workforce. They must be committed and they must have empathy.
It is in their best interest and it is in the best interest of the country when the world’s most productive workforce is working, making a livable wage, a wage that allows them to purchase a few nonessential commodities occasionally while enjoying a relatively high standard of living. Such workers pay their share in taxes, which helps to control the federal deficit and balance state budgets. If they make good money, they spend good money, keeping both the government and the business community prosperous.
Unfortunately, millions of the best jobs available to working class American have disappeared over the past 20 years. These were manufacturing jobs. Most of them were exported to foreign countries where wages are much lower—a condition favorable to employers concerned only with the bottom line.
In the past decade the manufacturing sector of the nation’s workforce has declined from more than 17 million workers to about 11.5 million. In the 1950s, manufacturing accounted for 50 percent of U.S. jobs. By the 1970s it had dropped to 25 percent and it is now less than 10 percent. Former President George Bush supported, even cheered, those corporations that shipped American jobs overseas. Can anybody figure how that was good for America?
Voters are rightfully scornful of incumbent U.S. senators and representatives who have shown little ability or inclination to solve the nation’s economic problems, of which one of the biggest is the erosion of the U.S. manufacturing base. Independent polls show that the loss of manufacturing jobs rates as a key concern of the electorate.
I would be surprised if a single member of Colorado’s congressional delegation has a plan to resurrect the country’s manufacturing base, which has to be done if the economy is to recover. From what we have observed, none of them is fully committed to helping working men and women. When confronted with labor issues, they procrastinate, wring their hands, gnash their teeth, make excuses and generally do nothing.
I recently heard an anecdote about a meeting years ago between then President Franklin D. Roosevelt and A. Philip Randolph, the great black civil rights and labor leader. Randolph, who was the founder and president of the Sleeping Car Porters Union, came to the White House to make certain demands on the president. Roosevelt’s response was “make me do it,” which Randolph did later did by forcing the president’s hand through effective planning and public opinion.
That’s what we must do with present-day politicians, “make them do it,” make them fix the economy.