A new election season is quickly approaching and the Teamsters, like Americans as a whole, have much to ponder. While there has been some economic improvement since 2012, workers trying to cover their families’ day-to-day expenses are still facing an uphill climb.
That said there is much to be learned from recent U.S. elections. Beginning in 2006 and continuing in 2008 and 2010, voters pushed hard to change policy in Washington, even reversing course four years ago when they believed the path from the previous two elections wasn’t working. The result? More gridlock but little tangible change benefitting hard-working Americans.
This November, the public again will have a chance to weigh in on the future direction of the country. Voters should use these next several months to get to know how their elected representatives as well as those challenging them would look to craft policy to benefit workers. What they may realize is there is nothing wrong with their lawmakers. Rather, the problem lies with the certain anti-worker forces in control of Congress.
Americans are noticeably frustrated with inaction in the nation’s capital, and for good reason. Jobs that could support a middle-class family have increasingly been replaced with low-wage work that requires the employed to seek out public assistance to help makes ends meet. Job-loss numbers are falling, but those statistics have done little to help regular people.
Why haven’t things gotten better for many U.S. workers? Because instead helping their constituents, too many on Capitol Hill have turned their back on them. Anti-worker lawmakers refused, for example, to extend long-term unemployment benefits to millions of Americans who have continued to search for work to no avail. They’ve allowed food stamp benefits that were largely going to the working poor to expire. And they won’t bring a proposed increase in the minimum wage to the floor for a vote in either the House or the Senate.
These are not policy steps that are good for workers or America. There is a sizeable contingent of federal lawmakers who seem more interested in listening to the wants and desires of their billionaire buddies like the Koch Brothers who help fund groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and seek benefits for big business but bupkis for blue-collar workers. That is not a healthy decision for democracy.
It’s OK to be angry at Washington. A sizeable contingent of anti-worker lawmakers has done much to deserve our ire. But what working people can’t afford is to make bad choices at the ballot box. Americans can’t just throw up their hands and give up. Corporate America isn’t, and they will continue to donate mountains of money to lawmakers and candidates alike trying to influence them.
Working people may not be able to compete with corporate wallets, but they can have their voices. They can educate themselves, volunteer and talk to their family and friends. That’s what it will take to beat the billionaire brigade and ensure a future fit for us all.