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Labor Day is supposed to be a celebration of workers, but it’s been a long time since workers have been celebrated — or for that matter, have had a reason to celebrate. That’s because the union movement that gave us this holiday is, at least numerically, a shadow of its former self.

If we really want to give workers something to cheer about, we need to revitalize unions.

Source: Campaign for America's Future
It’s no coincidence that prosperity was widely shared when unions were at the height of their power in the decades after World War II, and that inequality has soared as unions have been weakened.

That’s what I conclude in Inequality: Rebuilding the Middle Class Requires Reviving Strong Unions, a new Campaign for America’s Future report. My analysis tracks the simultaneous decline in the power of the labor movement and the fortunes of middle-class workers. It makes the case in simple terms.

One chart reinforces the point. It compares union membership with the share of income going to the top 10 percent since the 1920s. When only 1 in 10 workers belonged to unions in the early 1930s, the richest 10 percent pocketed nearly half of the nation’s income.

Then President Franklin D. Roosevelt began a set of bold New Deal initiatives that dramatically increased the power of workers to join unions and bargain collectively. The share of workers who were unionized rose to about one-third by the late 1940s. At that point, the bottom 90 percent saw a significant increase in their share of national income.

Today, as union membership declines to low levels last seen in the 1920s, the share of national income going to the top 10 percent is rising — to levels not seen since then either.

Combine that with lackluster economic growth and you get the result chronicled in an August report by Sentier Research. As The New York Times reported, Sentier found that median incomes, when adjusted for inflation, had fallen 3.1 percent since 2009. They remain significantly below what they were in 2000.

A corporate-driven propaganda campaign has for decades blamed labor unions for saddling American corporations with burdens that made them uncompetitive in the global economy.

That has proven to be cover for dismantling the forces that kept corporations from rigging the economic rules in their favor. When corporate power was kept in check by union power, workers and corporations at least had a fighting chance to prosper together. Without that check, workers are losing. As wages erode, benefits disappear, work conditions become harsher and jobs themselves become more unstable.

The good news is that a combination of worker-activist movements and bold political leadership is setting the stage for a potential resurgence of the labor movement. In Los Angeles and other cities, newly elected pro-labor officials are making companies that benefit from local zoning or contracts pay a living wage and accept unions when a majority of workers indicate they want one.

Across the United States, fast-food worker strikes are fueling state and municipal minimum-wage increases while injecting new energy and ideas to worker organizing efforts.

President Barack Obama has used executive orders to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers and require adherence to basic fair labor standards, including the right to organize. These orders could have effects that ripple through to private sector workers.

Labor Day would live up to its purpose if it not only gave workers a temporary respite from the rigors of their jobs, but also drove a national effort to empower workers once again to rebalance the economic scales so that we can rebuild a growing, stable middle class. It needs to be a day on, not a day off, in the effort to reclaim the American dream for working people.

Robert Borosage is the co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, a center for ideas and action that works to build an enduring majority for progressive change.

Cross-posted from Other Words.

Photo: peoplesworld via Flickr

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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