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Morehead

Morehead

When we march through Bloomington on Labor Day, our parade theme is, “Protect your paycheck: Vote!” 

As Americans, many issues need consideration. We need to think about our foreign policy, environment, human rights, social programs and so much more.

As workers, a good job is the foundation for economic security. If a person can work full time, earn a living wage and have benefits, they can be relatively self-sufficient. If a job does not pay a living wage or offer benefits, that individual often needs taxpayer assistance for medical emergencies and basic necessities.

 The economy has become a central issue in this campaign. We survived the 2008 recession, but many of us have not seen raises. Employment has bounced back, but not everyone is gaining. Globalization leaves working people competing to see who can produce the most for the least. The gap between the highest income earners and the average worker continually grows. The top one percent holds 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. This has led to not only disillusionment, but also anger from many Americans. 

So if we are going to “vote our pocketbook,” what should we look for from the presidential and congressional contenders? 

Here’s a few prescriptions that could make a great difference:

Number one, invest in America again. We have become a pothole nation — put people to work on infrastructure. The cash-infusion from well-paid construction jobs can spur steel and materials industries. Fixing our roads, building a 21st century rail system, improving our airports and waterways is not just a matter of American pride. Business is more competitive if products can move efficiently, which creates wealth and also improves trade. 

Investing in America also means improving our schools. Where a child is born should not decide whether their education is superior and inferior. If every child has access to a quality education, our nation will be more productive. Employment opportunities through better education will solve many social ills. Investment in schools today can save us from a growing prison population. 

Number two, let’s rethink our tax revenue policies. American corporations should not be able to off-shore their ownership to dodge taxes. Just as our wages are taxed, speculative financial transactions like capital gains and dividends should be taxed. Channeling those funds into infrastructure and education will help rebuild our economy from the bottom up. 

Third, let’s make it in America again. An educated workforce is key; so is challenging currency manipulation by other countries, ending tax incentives to offshore jobs and Buy American provisions. Our trade treaties should include basic human rights of no child labor, fair wages in each country and consistent environmental standards. 

Finally, American had its greatest middle-class prosperity after World War II, when workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts was greatest. Removing impediments to union organizing can give working people a voice on the job about their wages, benefits, safety and conditions. This will help equalize our current disparity of wealth. 

If those four economic building blocks make sense, then please look carefully at our candidates. Do their platforms, rhetoric and plans help build an American economy for all? If so, that’s why we are urging people to “vote their paycheck” this Labor Day.

Morehead is president of the Bloomington & Normal Trades & Labor Assembly (AFL-CIO) and Laborers International Union of North America Local 362.

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