A Blast from the Past: Lynn Williams in the Huffington Post

Lynn Williams, former International President of the United Steelworkers, has posted an excellent speech on a major American blog. Although the title refers to rebuilding the labour movement, the text touches upon many of the broader policy issues discussed on our blog: how to design a stimulus package, rising inequality, public healthcare, the economics of minimum wages, international trade agreements, and working time. Leo Gerard, the current International President, posts regularly on the same website.

UPDATE (Feb. 11): Williams has sent me the full text of his inaugural Kleiman Memorial Lecture from which the Huffington Post piece was abridged:

            It is an honor indeed to present the first of what is to be an annual Bernard Kleiman Memorial Lecture.  There are few people in the history of the United Steelworkers, or indeed of the labor movement, as deserving of an annual Memorial Lecture as is Bernie.  His career in the Steelworkers was notable by every conceivable measure, the exceptional talent that he brought to his responsibilities, the total commitment with which he carried them out, the fearless courage and tireless strength that were fundamental to his very person, the depth of his empathy with and feeling for the members whom we were privileged to serve. 

            Bernie served as our General Counsel from 1965 to 1997, as Special Counsel from 1997 to 2006, when he officially retired but in fact continued to work at negotiations.  He was a close adviser to five presidents of the Union but also an impressive and important figure in the Union in his own right.  He built the best in house legal department in the labor movement and was a selfless dedicated activist in progressive causes, for his concern about working people and their needs was as broad as the world.   

            I offer my congratulations to the Battle of Homestead Foundation for their immediate recognition of the need to commemorate this great man and his outstanding contribution.  Pittsburgh is the home of so much that is important in labor history.   Both the AFL and the CIO were founded here.   The great battle of Homestead, and the attack on labor that it instituted, remains a marker the no serious student of the labor movement can ignore.   It is entirely fitting that an annual lecture in honor of Bernard Kleiman, all he stood for and all that he accomplished, should be held on this historic site. 
            What I have chosen to speak about today is the progressive era, relatively speaking at least, in which I grew up and first worked in the labor movement, its demise and deterioration into an era of corporate greed, of egregious inequality and of a destructive attack on social benefits, now being followed by a rapidly widening consensus that we can and must do better, which I characterize as the building of a new progressive era. 

            Let me start at the beginning of the first progressive era of which I speak, which I identify as beginning with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as President of the United States, the passing of the Wagner Act and the founding of the CIO, all of which emerged out of the desperation of the Great Depression.   The progressive impulses were also stirred by the terrors of World War II and the almost universal feeling that we must build a world of peace and hope and prosperity for all. 

            The arrival on the scene of our part of the CIO, the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) was greeted with unrestrained enthusiasm by thousands and thousands of steelworkers.   Bert McNamara, a retired Director of our Union in Wisconsin, was one of the first persons hired by SWOC as an organizer.   He was assigned as the organizer responsible for Indiana.  When I inquired of him what he did in that capacity he replied that he picked up cards.  When I asked how many, his reply was that it was a poor week in which he did not pick up at least a thousand.    

               What happened in Indiana, happened here in western Pennsylvania, in Buffalo, in Gary, in Youngstown, wherever steel was produced.   The Wagner Act was passed in order to make collective bargaining readily available to the workers, specifically for the purpose of improving purchasing power and helping pull the economy out of the depression.   The President of the United States had said that if he were a worker he would join a union.   It must have been an almost revolutionary atmosphere. 

            Of course, there were employers who resisted, some violently as in the Memorial Day Massacre, some by establishing company unions and attempting to buy the workers off, but overwhelmingly steelworkers welcomed the opportunity to form an industrial union.    By the time the Union established itself as a constitutional body in 1942, the United Steelworkers of America was an organization of some 700,000 workers. 

            As I noted a moment ago, as the shadow of Nazism and fascism spread across Europe and threatened the British Isles, and as the inhumanity which human beings had inflicted upon one another became more evident, so did democracy and freedom become more precious. 

            In the State of the Union Address President Roosevelt delivered on January 6, 1941,  he spoke of the Four Freedoms in the following words – “In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. 

“The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. 

“The second is freedom of worship.  That is, freedom of every person to worship whomever (be it God, or any other deity/deities) in his own way – everywhere in the world. 

“The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world. 

“The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world. 

“That is no vision of a distant millennium.  It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.  That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called “new order” of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.” 

            In 1945 Roosevelt’s widow, Eleanor, as chairperson of the United Nations Committee for Human Rights worked for the inclusion of the Four Freedoms in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights where they appear as  “…the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people”. 

             Let me not paint too rosy a picture.  I do not want to give the impression that these idealistic views were held by everyone, or that there were not great issues about which to struggle, but it does make a significant difference what the leaders of the society express in their words and deeds and, of course, what is passed into legislation. 

            One of the most progressive programs that came in the post war period was the GI Bill.  It dramatically demonstrated both the interest there was in education and training when it was made available, and the positive impact that increasing the skills of the work force could have on the development of the economy.   

            Two other powerful, life saving expressions of the progressive spirit were the enactment of Social Security in 1935 and of Medicare in 1965.   The Social Security administration is one of the most courteous and efficient, public or private, I have ever had any dealings with and Medicare operates one of the most cost efficient health insurance programs in the nation, its administrative costs being an infinitely small percentage of those of the private systems. 

            There can be no more significant expression of the progressive spirit than the progress made during this same period in civil rights, albeit at the cost of much struggle and sacrifice.  The combination of the Civil Rights March with Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” address, and President Johnson’s subsequent courageous leadership in securing enactment of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, represented a giant leap forward in the recognition of human rights in the United States. 

            This entire period of progressive change both impacted upon and was supported by the labor movement.   The Civil Rights Act resulted in a consent decree in the steel industry.   One of Bernie Kleiman’s great contributions to the Union was in working with the consent decree to bring about historic internal changes, by opening up the rights to job promotions and to job security for all employees, regardless of race or color. 

            Collective bargaining moved forward on every front.   Jack Metzgar, whose father was a grievance committee man in Johnstown, PA,  in his book about the 1959 steel strike, discusses the progress Steelworkers made in the 1950s.   He describes how at the beginning of the decade his family did not own a house, a car, a TV set or a refrigerator – by the end they owned all four.  Real wages of Steelworkers increased by more than one hundred percent in that ten year period. 

            It was during these years that the labor movement created the middle income standard of living for thousands of workers across America, not simply in wages but also in such matters as health care benefits, pensions, vacations, and safety and health provisions. 

            When all of this was established, the sheer size and power of the steel mills and the other great industrial operations across America, combined with the increasing economic well being of much of the population, gave one the feeling that, although challenged from time to time, the progressive agenda was on a path that would proceed indefinitely in that same direction. 

            Unfortunately, that was not to be.  Many factors were involved, two of which were most significant.  The first was that the conservative, corporate and other business oriented right wing forces in society had never disappeared, but had continued to attack progressive programs, and increasingly had the resources, money and media to do so quite effectively.   Later the pressures of globalization, combined with dramatic increases in the costs of energy, in what had been an economy essentially based on what were presumed to be unlimited resources of cheap energy, presented clear markers of change. 

            One was that the shortage of steel in world markets, predicted by the experts to appear in the 1980s and upon which the North American industry felt confident that its leisurely approach to modernization would suffice, was replaced with a 300 million ton surplus, much of which headed for the U. S. market where it wrecked havoc with prices and supplies.  Incidentally, when the industry did receive quota protection, the Union insisted that any profits be invested in new equipment. 

            Another was the election of Ronald Reagan as President and the creation of the Reagan Thatcher combination of union bashers.  It is President Reagan’s destruction of Patco, the Air Controllers Union, which marks the change for trade unionists more clearly than any other event.  It was the signal that union bashing was in. 

            I think of another significant player in bringing about the change in America, the Chicago school economist named Milton Friedman.  His economics can be put very succinctly – free trade, free markets, tax cuts,  limited government – presented as the solution to everything.   He made the excesses of greed acceptable, indeed respectable.   His views of trade unions were not only negative but bizarrely so. 

            I had a personal encounter with him.   John Kenneth Galbraith had a TV series on PBS presenting his history and his major theories, an updated Keynsian view of the ways in which a modern economy can cope with cycles of boom and bust.   Nothing would have it but that Friedman should have his series as well.  His was produced by the head of the PBS station in Erie, PA, with whom I was acquainted, who asked me to persuade one of the AFL-CIO leaders to appear on the segment concerning trade unions.  When I was unable to persuade anyone, he said he would use the empty chair approach unless I would agree to do it myself.   I have never avoided an opportunity of any kind where there was any chance of explaining labors’ position.  I was also curious about meeting him and thought I could do better than an empty chair. 

            My first impression when I met Professor Friedman and his wife was that they had stepped out of a Norman Rockwell iconic painting of the way everybody’s grandparents should look.   The second shock was when these terrible opinions came out of such a kindly, smiling face.  I survived the encounter, always telling people that my best lines were left on the cutting room floor, it being his show.    

            His basic position with regard to the labor movement defied imagination.  He said wages were determined by the unseen hand of the market, that the total wage bill in an economy was fixed in this way, that anything labor won in increased wages in one situation was taken from workers in another.   This is plainly not the case.  We all know that labor created the middle income society that is often referred to as the American dream, wherein raising wages raises purchasing power which in turn creates jobs and successful businesses.    This is particularly the case when labor is strong and can bargain its full share of the wealth it creates.  When it cannot, as in recent years as a result of free trade and globalization, one result has been an enormous increase in inequality as the profits of increased productivity went disproportionately to the wealthy.   In America today, the top one percent of the population hold more of the wealth of the country than the bottom 90%. 

            In a new book, entitled “The Great Risk Shift” Jacob S. Hacker has detailed the variety of ways in which the shifting of the costs of health care and pensions to individuals has had disastrous results for thousands of people, and has added to the creation of what Robert Reich has identified as the ‘anxious class”, constantly concerned with how long the job will last, how the next health crisis in the family will be met, and if a 401(k) will provide sufficient pension income or not.   

            Hacker writes, “Consider some of the alarming facts.” 

“Personal bankruptcy has gone from a rare occurrence to a routine one, with the number of households filing for bankruptcy rising from fewer than 290,000 in 1980 to more than two million in 2006.”    

            “…. the number of Americans who lack health insurance has increased with little interruption over the last twenty-five years as corporations have cut back on workplace coverage for employees and their dependents.” 

            “Twenty-five years ago, 83 percent of medium and large firms offered traditional “defined benefit” pensions that provided a predetermined monthly benefit for the remainder of a worker’s life.  Today, the share is below a third.  Instead, companies that offer pensions provide “defined contribution” plans such as the 401 (k), in which returns are neither predictable nor assured” 

            “The incomes of middle-class families aren’t much higher today than they were in the 1970s – and they are much more at risk.” 

            The business journals, business sections of newspapers and the business media constantly discuss the fine economy, as the Wall Street Journal headlined on one occasion “The Miracle Continues”, but Hacker says, “Americans don’t believe the miracle exists.  In poll after poll in recent years, Americans have heaped scorn on the happy talk and the sunny statistics.  They have said the country is on the wrong economic track.  They have said they expect the economy to get worse, not better.  They have said that their own financial situation is weakening.  And they have said that leaders on both sides of the partisan aisle are failing to address their most fundamental economic concerns.”    

            In short, the safety nets that were so carefully put together over the post war years have been ripped apart, while the spread between the truly wealthy and the working people in this society has grown exponentially, and now exceeds the worst excesses of the past. 

            I would like us to think together for a few minutes about the reality I have attempted, with Jacob Hacker’s help, to describe, and about what we can do to create the kind of society we wish there to be.  How clear a vision do we have of this wished for society?   

            As I think about it, three objectives predominate, all within the framework of human and democratic rights, all if you will within Lincoln’s definition of government of the people, by the people and for the people.    Life should provide a reasonable level of security for all humankind, people should be confident about where their next meal is coming from, that they are housed and secure in whatever environment they live and that there basic needs will be met.   Beyond that there should be opportunity – opportunity to live life more fully, to grow one’s talents, to accumulate more of this world’s goods, to contribute more to humankind’s knowledge and accomplishments.  The third leg of this stool should be an emphasis on quality, quality in everything we do, we build, we create, we present. 

            What does the concept of security embrace?  Certainly Roosevelt’s freedom from want is involved, which surely means the availability of decent jobs and the existence of a decent minimum wage and minimum level of vacation and such benefits, and certainly the right to health care would be part of any civilized definition of security. 

            Let me talk about health care in terms of my own experience although I gather Michael Moore has dealt with this issue quite thoroughly.  I was in Canada as the whole program developed there.   It began as a government hospitalization plan in the province of Saskatchewan, a prairie province with a population of less than a million.  It was put in place by a social democratic government of the C.C.F. party, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the predecessor to the labor supported New Democratic Party of today.   The government was led by Tommy Douglas, who was voted as the Greatest Canadian in an informal public poll in 2004, and who is also known in other circles as Kiefer Sutherland’s grandfather.  It proved so popular that it began to be copied by other provinces whose leaders feared the spillover support that might accrue to the CCF in their provinces.  The federal government wished to win some of the popularity so offered some federal support if certain standards were met in the programs. 
            Ten years later the medical care provisions were added to the plan.  There was a struggle with the doctors in the beginning, who went on strike in opposition to the plan.  The strike lasted about six weeks and then events proceeded with much the same result.   As the popularity of the new plan spread across the country the Liberal government of the day decided to do what it could to appear to be leading this effort, by appointing a Judge to be a one person Royal Commission to examine the plan and make recommendations.  After conducting hearings across the country Justice Hall recommended that the federal government give support to any province that established a plan that met certain standards, and that is what Canada has today.   It is frequently referred to as a national plan but is in fact a series of provincial plans and, although the history books show it to be the result of Justice Hall’s recommendations, it was in fact the result of the political pressure resulting from its success in Saskatchewan. 

            How does it work?   Marvelously well from the experience of our family.   My mother lived in a nursing home for the last ten years of her life and it cost only the difference between a double room and her  single.  Three of my four children and their families live under it, the fourth lives out of the country, and it has been just fine.  I have been living under it again since returning to Canada and have yet to pay a cent for a covered service, which is virtually everything. 

            It is truly universal.  It is paid for out of taxation.  As a percentage of Gross Domestic Product it is much less expensive than the percentage of GDP spent on health care in the United States.  Latest available numbers show the U.S. spending $6,102 per person as compared to Canada’s $3,165.  The results are better, there is greater longevity and lower infant mortality. 

            As you know, every advanced country in the world, with the exception only of the United States, has some version of a public health insurance plan.   I dare say none of them are perfect, but what system is. Virtually all of them have better statistics than the U.S., are less costly and, of course, provide insurance for everyone. 
            Another critically important element in security is the minimum wage, a priority that has been cruelly neglected in the United States.   The opposition always maintains that raising it will increase unemployment.   A few years ago, Allan Kreuger a Princeton economist and some of his colleagues examined the results of an increase in minimum wage among 330 fast food workers in New Jersey and another 80 plus in Pennsylvania, following an increase in the minimum wage in New Jersey to $5.50 an hour.  The study, conducted in careful detail over a 7-8 month period, could find no evidence of an impact of any kind on employment.  A decent level should be established, a formula to match inflation should be included and the disgraceful neglect of those impacted by it should be a relic of the past. 

         The most disruptive factor affecting security during recent decades has been the increasing impact of the race to the bottom.  This is the result of free trade arrangements in an entirely non-competitive but totally exploitive environment.   So much of what is talked about as free trade is really not trade at all, in the sense of the classical economists, but is the outsourcing of jobs formerly done here to be performed off-shore for unbelievably lower wages and then shipped back, with a devastating impact on job security in such locations.   It is not unusual to see the entire economic base of a community wiped out in this way. 

            Furthermore, many of these arrangements are with countries with authoritarian governments, managing their unions and controlling wages and conditions, so that anything resembling what the theoreticians describe as free trade in not remotely possible.  One cannot have free trade with slave societies. 

            Concern with the future of the world’s environment also impacts on the terms of trade.   Does it make sense, for example, to ship vast quantities of food vast distances, when focusing on readily available local foods would be so much more compatible with the well being of the world’s environment.    

            A new progressive era must deal effectively with all these issues.  What is needed is to use the leverage of market access to raise wages in the developing countries, so that they may embark on the path, not of being destitute consumers but of becoming income earning producers and therefore customers of their own products.   Then they can also become customers on the world stage, helping to maintain jobs in the producing countries, not undercutting and destroying them, but rather enabling all countries to become buyers and sellers, to look for new creative ways to be productive. This dynamic cannot be overemphasized.  Circumstances such as exist in Nigeria where the delta, rich with oil, provides virtually no benefits to the local population, or in the mineral rich Congo where the wealth disappears in corruption, both local and international, greatly exacerbate all the problems and do nothing to relieve any of them.  If the citizens of these countries were sharing in the wealth of their own resources they could be significant customers, making an enormous contribution to the well being of their own people and of people around the world. 

            What labor seeks are fair trade agreements that include guarantees of human rights, of the right to organize and bargain collectively, that require environmental standards and safety and health standards.  If we can protect intellectual property rights in trade agreements, as we do, we can protect human rights.   Such fair trade agreements must also now consider the very fundamental issues concerning the survival of our magnificent planet. 

            In the long run, such developments are the only answer to the pressures of immigration.   People prefer to stay in their homelands.  The overwhelming majority of us are here because the person who led the migration could not survive at home and was driven to find another, more hopeful, place. Here at home, a new progressive era requires that the labor movement be rebuilt and restored to its counter balancing position in our society.  The attack on the movement in the private sector has had destructive results for everybody.  It is instructive that the corporations buying up our companies come in many instances from countries where the labor movement is much more accepted as part of the way in which the businesses operate.  This is true across Europe and in Brazil, where the president of the country is the former president of the Metalworkers Union.   

            As the press has been reporting the Steelworkers and its President Leo Gerard have been leading the way in America in insisting that the Union have an effective presence in the decision making processes in the industry, and in building the power that can achieve that result.  This approach goes back to the days of  Philip Murray and his original ideas about building industrial democracy in the steel industry, an idea that was flatly rejected by industry at that time but is coming into its own in the current circumstances. 

            Of course, now it is being projected on the world scene as the USW seeks to find its way to a true global, international kind of trade unionism that can match the global reach of the corporations.   No country in the world understands the need for checks and balances better than does the United States.  They are equally important in the private sector as they are in the arena of governing policy.  

            There is really only one institution that represents the democratically determined voice of the people in economic matters and that is the labor movement.  That is why economies are more balanced, inequality is more contained and pressures to help the less fortunate are more sustained in those societies where there is a vigorous and strong labor movement, whose importance is recognized for the value it brings to democratic participation and social and economic justice and satisfaction. The rebuilding of the labor movement requires a commitment from the movement to use all the strategies and tactics at its command, with a skill and an intensity worthy of the importance of its task, to reach out to the millions of American workers who would like to have a union but have been living and working in situations where the actions of the employer are far too intimidating.   It also requires a commitment from the political leaders in our society to insist – one would hope with the support of some enlightened business leaders – that the labor laws be changed to stop the intimidation of employers and permit American workers a truly free choice of collective bargaining.   The emphasis should not be on destroying unionism but on using it for the betterment of all.             

Another critically important piece of a society in which people feel secure is the existence of good jobs.  The relative absence of these in the United States in recent years is perhaps the major source of feelings of insecurity.  It is what is so damaging about the loss of manufacturing jobs.   Another relatively recent book, “The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences” by New York Times economic reporter Louis Uchitelle, presents the results of intense study over a number of years of what actually happened to the workers who have lost their jobs not only in industries and businesses in times of crisis but in what he describes as the new standard practice of  “The permanent separation of people from their jobs, abruptly and against their wishes.”   Uchitelle explains how modern layoffs are hidden by descriptions such as buyouts or early retirements or switching to contractor status.  Of course, in non union firms devices of all kinds can be used without the employees having any effective way of even protesting, much less negotiating changes.  He cites Proctor and Gamble, a notoriously non-union firm with a history of a very paternalistic labor relations policy as having unloaded some 20,000 employees since 1993 without anything remotely like that number being counted in the Bureau of Labor Statistics registry of involuntarily displaced workers.   

            Two points stand out in this book.  The first is, on the basis of in depth examinations of the circumstances of many of those who lost their jobs, that it is an exceedingly rare event for the displaced worker ever again to reach the level of income and general standard of living they had achieved before the displacement. 

The second is that he describes being laid off as a “ fundamental in-the-bones  blow to ego and self-worth” that seriously affects both physical and mental health.  His view is that there is nothing to be proud of in these new practices, that corporate leaders should be held to a higher standard, that these present practices are more akin to those of the nineteenth century robber barons than to anything else. 

Of course, there have to be some good jobs to go to.  When the United States was leading the world in the production of the newest and best in the world of work, this was not a problem but so much manufacturing has left the country in globalization’s competitive race to the bottom that it is a problem that must be addressed. 

 You may recall that President Clinton and Vice President Gore hosted a 200 person think tank in Little Rock after their first election but before the Inauguration.   I was privileged to attend as one of the AFL-CIO group who were invited, and to participate in a panel, appropriately chaired by the Vice President, concerning the environment.   My presentation to the panel was built around the idea that preserving the environment will require investment in many changes involving new ideas, new processes and new equipment that would be necessary for America to work to be at the head of that parade and to provide a foundation for new jobs. 

It was with great interest that I read the following news brief about renewable energy developments in Germany, renewable energy being one of the favorite ideas for a more environmentally sensitive economy.    Germany’s Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel has announced that 170,000 people are currently employed in Germany’s renewable energy industries.  The report comments “The great number of jobs created in renewable energies has exceeded all expectations.  In the last five years alone 70,000 new jobs were created, twice as many as the country’s nuclear power plants provide.  Renewable energies are the key industries for growth and employment in Germany.  In no other area have so many jobs been created in such a short time.  By the year 2012 we expect the renewables to employ 300,000 people, and by 2020 nearly 500,000.” 

            It should not be beyond the ingenuity of the American people to think of a host of ideas for useful activity to help humankind cope with the new challenges of global warming, in addition to all the old challenges of global economic development.    The formation of the Blue Green Alliance in which the USW is a major partner will play a crucial role in developing policies that provide both economic development and environmental protection. 

  From a trade union perspective there is, of course, another point as well.   If as the future unfolds, continually increasing numbers of our children and grandchildren will work in the service and information sectors, then the thousands of poorly paid jobs in those sectors will have to be improved.  It is not that the WalMarts of this world are not making millions upon millions of dollars that keeps their wages at minimum levels.  That is where the wages in the steel industry were, too, before the workers organized. 

            There are two other legs to this stool on which I envisage a new progressive era being built.  The first of these is education, a critically important element in achieving the opportunity for improvement in one’s circumstances.   By international standards America is not doing nearly as well in education as it should.  It is true that it has some schools that are the envy of the world, but we all know there are others that are filthy, crumbling, leaking disgraces, where no children should be asked to go much less have mandatory attendance as part of their educational experience. 

            The success of the Steelworkers jointly bargained and administered Institute for Career Development program, to which Bernie made such an outstanding contribution, has demonstrated both the great interest of thousands of adult working people in accessing more education and training, and the talent pool that exists if we but find ways to reach out to it.  My personal dream for the ICD is that it might evolve over time to a broad based joint management, labor and community based program that prepares people for the more imaginative efforts that will be required to lead the world economy in a way that is supportive of the environment not rushing it to its destruction. 

            Finally, the third leg of my stool is quality.  I mean to encompass a number of ideas in that word.   

            First of all, it seems to me that if we are to give our beautiful environment on planet Earth its proper respect, the reckless and wasteful use of resources of all kinds that has been a hallmark of so much of our economy, will have to be significantly modified in the direction of the more careful use of the earth’s resources, both in terms of the equitability of their distribution and of the quality of the objects or the programs for which they are used.   This leads us also to the quality of the processes of production, in that use is made through participative structures of the talents of all who are involved, including the union, and careful attention is given to establishing and maintaining safe conditions  and protection against occupational disease,     

            As long as I can remember, the wonders of technology have led to speculation that human labor might be reduced since such abundance can be produced so efficiently.  Thus far it has never happened, at least not here.  Americans, living in the richest country on the face of the globe have, until recently, worked the longest hours.  Maybe now, the congruence of such challenging developments as the potential destruction of our environment, the toxicity of some resources, the shortage of others will motivate our society to look in some new and higher quality directions for the joys and satisfactions of life.   One can imagine a new flourishing of  humankinds’ artistic, scientific and athletic talents given the combination of basic security, fine educational experiences and opportunities and the emphasis on quality envisaged here. 

            These are the areas in which our restless and competitive energies should be focused, not in warfare with each other, not in the exploitation of the weakest by the strongest, but in the leadership of the strongest in building a new global era worthy of the best of humankinds’ gifts and talents, not the worst. 

            Samuel Gompers, first and longest serving President of the American Federation of Labor, from 1886 to 1924, said it as well as anyone.   

            “What does labor want?  We want more, more schoolhouses and less jails, more books and less arsenals, more learning and less vice, more leisure and less greed, more justice and less revenge, in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures.”

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