The Dignity of Labor

The Dignity of Labor

Op-Ed by Patrick Henry – Democratic Candidate for Texas House District 25

My name is Patrick Henry and I’m running for State Representative in HD 25. I’m endorsed by the Texas Gulf Coast Labor Federation.

My topic for this essay does tie into the events of this week and I will speak write more on that in a bit. Please consider taking moment of silence for prayer or reflection on the brokenness of our country, the pain of our people, and the path to healing.

Millions of Americans labor without dignity.

A top economic advisor to President Donald Trump, Kevin Hassett said that the “human capital stock” was ready to return to work. That’s you, human capital stock. This is the Trump administration’s view of labor. Those “heroes” lauded for their service over the past weeks, the folks that kept our grocery stores open, our pharmacies running, our take out available, are again just low wage, disposable workers.

The high regard we held the men and women delivering our Amazon and putting groceries in our cars is fleeting like a snow cone in August, and soon we’ll be back to wondering why they didn’t get a better job.

Do you feel equal?

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, “There is no capital without labor”. Lincoln spoke in 1861 of the relationship of capital and labor as being an equal one. Do you feel equal? Do you understand that the 40 million unemployed bolstered wage growth in the US? That’s right, if you look at the graphs, unemployment and wage growth they look the same. Because suddenly some people are paid more? No. Because most of the jobs lost were not the top paying jobs.

“We’re all in this together?” I cry bullshit. The bailouts for Wall Street far exceeded the bailouts for Main Street. This has happened time and again as banks and auto makers were deemed to big to fail but you the working citizen were left hanging. Just as your retirement and savings recover from one event,  another puts you back to square one. The deck is stacked against labor, the worker, you and I.

Right to work.

Right to work is wrong for America and wrong for Texas' labor market.

So Texas is a right to work state. What does that mean? Innocently enough, it means you can’t be fired for membership in a Union.  Sounds good until you understand it is a union busting technique that allows non dues paying union members to reap the benefits that their union brothers and sisters work for.  Texas right to work legislation was enacted in 1993. This all goes back to the anti-union Taft Hartley Act of 1947 that ensured you did not have to belong to a union to reap the benefits.

As a teacher in Texas I may belong to a union or teacher’s organization. I will be fired if I participate in any type of work stoppage and will have my teaching credentials revoked. I may not collectively bargain and I work without a contract or guarantee of employment. Texas is work at will state. Your employment may be terminated at any time. No reason need be given, however there is scant protection that it cannot be for an illegal reason. If the boss doesn’t like you, legal.  If the boss doesn’t like you because you are male, illegal.

Texas leads the country in workplace deaths.

Not surprisingly then, right to work, and at will employment often means the right to die. Most years, Texas leads the country in workplace deaths. Union jobs with policies and procedures spelled out protect the worker and the employer. A protected union employee unafraid to shut a plant down in a dangerous situation saves countless lives and untold millions of dollars.  An employee that is fearful of termination will be bullied into engaging in dangerous practices. Haven’t we seen this enough?

No human is disposable and no job lacks dignity. Who does injustice in the workplace strike the hardest? Who has to work through Covid even though they have the highest rates of infection? Please don’t pretend you don’t know the answer. Please don’t claim you didn’t know what was going on. People of color suffer the highest unemployment. People of color working at meat processing plants ordered by your President to remain open put their lives in danger for low wages. Indigenous people’s impoverished communities, long suffering from unemployment are being infected at rates as high as New York City. Right to work and at will provisions must be overturned.  Union, Unity, Dignity. To save this state and this country, we must “be in this together”.

Time is short. Stand up! Rise up! Vote!

Patrick Henry Democrat for Texas House District 25

Patrick Henry

Democratic Candidate

Patrick Henry is running for State Representative for Texas House District 25. HD 25 encompasses Southern Brazoria County and all of Matagorda County. Patrick and his wife Kathy have been married 34 years and live in Angleton. They have two grown sons, Sean and David.

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