Labor Protests in America and the Rise of Economic Inequity

The growing disconnect between the masses and the rich and powerful class of Americans has come to the fore with the labor protests that have sparked off in Wisconsin. The shocking plans of the state to strip the public sector unions of most of their collective bargaining rights, have brought out the deep-seated dissatisfaction of common Americans against the economic policies of the country. The Wisconsin plan has also inspired other states to adopt similar measures to promote the cause of the employers rather than the employees.

Idaho, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas and Iowa are some of the other states that are looking at similar proposals as the Wisconsin plan. The general feeling among the labor supporters is clear that such plans are nothing but yet another lop-sided effort to make the rich even richer, which depriving the labor from sharing the gains. Many protesters believe that the real agenda of such state measures is to destroy labor unions and give all the advantage to those who are already advantaged.

Thousands of people around the United States have shown solidarity with the cause of public sector labor unions by joining public rallies held to “Save the American Dream” and to spread messages like “Wall St. is Destroying America”. Collective bargaining rights are indeed at the heart of an equitable and democratic capitalist system. Any compromise to these rights is bound to weaken the foundations of economic equity, justice and democracy in the United States.

Many Americans believe that the aggressive pro-corporate policies in the private sector have deeply weakened America’s labor movement over the last few decades. Public sector unions, which represent the last bastion of the labor movement, are now under threat from the same vested interests in the government and business. The rise of public sector unions in the past few decades happened at the cost of private sector unions. Now the agenda is clearly to curb the powers of the public sector unions as well, thereby effectively ending any meaningful labor union power in the United States.

Economic disparity between the rich and the poor reflects more sharply in the United States than in any other developed democracy around the world today. America's poverty rates are the highest among wealthy democratic countries, and a recent UNICEF study of children’s well-being has ranked the U.S. at 20th position out of 21 OECD countries. The countries that rank high in the UNICEF study are without exception the societies with healthy and thriving labor movements.

From all economic indicators it appears quite clear that there is a widening gap between the prosperity of America’s big businesses and the prosperity of the common Americans. Emerging economies of the world, such as China and India are pursuing an agenda of horizontal economic growth rather than vertical growth. The result is that their overriding economic aim is to generate more and better jobs for their huge populations, where as the United States is working hard to ensure the prosperity of its gigantic global corporations and adding more fat to the burgeoning wallets of their stakeholders.

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