2008-04-04 / Columnists

The Progressive

Labor Pains
Commentary By John Paul Culotta

Recently, the mass media has been covering the sex scandals of three governors, the anniversary of our invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation of that nation, and our increasing economic woes. In 2008 we face the fouryear cycle of a presidential election. Most of us are increasingly bored already. Many of us are not paying too much attention because the issues appear to be clouded by the issues of age, race, and gender. We all know these issues do matter. At the same time, many important issues are not addressed at all in this election cycle or at least not as of yet. One issue that appears to be missing is the safety of American workplaces.

In New York City many construction sites have been scarred by worker deaths and injuries. Often, the public has been in danger. Asugar refinery in the south has been marred by death because of inadequate ventilation. Mine accidents are becoming more frequent. Truckers and other transportation industries too often risk lives in order to save dollars. CSX Inc. is an industry that is often cited for this. Firefighters, police services, sanitation workers suffer from many injuries and deaths. Medical workers especially in hospital emergency rooms are often assaulted. Social workers, nurses, and teachers are increasingly dealing with hostile, aggressive, and dangerous clientele. Our society is becoming more antisocial because of the stresses of the demands of a consumer society that cannot coincide with the reality of a fall in the real wages of the American worker. Most American did not benefit from the boom of previous years. Americans have increasingly gone into debt and now the reality of the situation is being evident only because the financial elite may now feel the sting of a false economic foundation.

No presidential candidate has clearly shown an interest in promoting an America that rewards honest labor. This nation appears to have socialism for corporations and insures wealth for the elite. Only the working poor and middle class must adhere to a free market that has become unwilling to bend to the real needs of the American people. Americans must be ensured adequate health care, a safe workplace, wages that will ensure dignity, housing that is adequate, educational opportunities, and an end to false barriers of race, religion, sex, national origin, and age. This is not an impossible utopia- it is the promise of America.

Too often our free market is worshiped as the panacea to solve all our social, political, and economic problems. There is no question the free market system promotes growth when it is properly guided by honesty and adherence to the values of brotherhood. It is not in present day America. Worship of the individual over community is a serious problem in any society. In America, our myths and reality have generated a belief that we can all overcome poverty and barriers with a diligence, labor, and courage. We cannot tolerate an America that rewards fraud, egotism, and a disregard for others. America needs a president, a congress, and a supreme court that rewards working Americans and not just capital and corporations. Will any of our present presidential candidates address the aspirations of Americans who work cleaning our seniors, policing our streets, teaching the children of immigrants, build our places of commerce and residence, and mine our resources?

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