An Unequal America Is A Weaker America
By Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News on June 15, 2011
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is pleased with the corporate tax breaks recently signed into law. I don’t agree with them. But I don’t challenge the right of Michigan businesses to form an association to protect their interests.
Nor do I think the government should stop doctors from joining the American Medical Association, or pig farmers from joining the National Pork Producers Association, or carmakers from joining the American Automotive Association. I don’t view that as a threat to free enterprise.
But somehow it’s a threat to free enterprise when working people join together to protect their wages and benefits. In the last few months, politicians from Washington to Wisconsin have tried to limit working Americans’ right to band together to protect their interests.
I’m very proud of Teamsters who’ve been defending that right against the recent onslaught of attacks. Tens of thousands of Teamsters rallied against anti-worker legislation in hundreds of cities and towns over the past few months. My union has recently fought against -- and defeated -- dozens of bills aimed at weakening unions.
Working people today are fighting unprecedented assaults on their economic well-being. The November election was the first in decades where corporations and Wall Street speculators were allowed to contribute unlimited amounts of secret money to political campaigns. They took full advantage of it to push their radical anti-worker agenda.
Now they’re seeing the return on their investment. The rich got $120 billion in tax breaks, while firefighters, teachers and nurses got pink slips. The rich got record profits, and they got to pit even more American workers against cheap labor overseas. There are 7 million fewer jobs now than there were in December 2007. Wages are falling.
IF CEOs have the right to outsource our jobs, then working people have the right to band together to stop them. If corporations can form political committees to lobby politicians, then working- and middle-class Americans can band together to make their voices heard.
Working people cannot offset corporate greed and corporate power unless they can form unions. And the need for unions has never been more evident than it is now. America is in danger of becoming a banana republic, a Third World country of haves and have-nots with nothing in between. We are currently the 42ndmost unequal country in the world, more unequal than Yemen, Tunisia or Egypt.
An unequal America is a weaker America. Inequality has caused too many booms and busts, too much instability and too little economic growth. More and more Americans feel trapped in low-wage jobs, unable to make their lives better. Forty-four million Americans are on food stamps, and two out of five of the families that require that assistancehave a wage earner. There is something very wrong in a country where millions of hard-working people can’t feed their families.
Economic inequality undermines peoples’ faith that America remains true to the principles upon which it was founded. We must restore the balance between the corporate billionaires and the working class in order to restore Americans’ faith in those principles.
The place to start is to make sure working people can join together and have a voice in the democratic process.
To read archived articles from General President Hoffa, click here.