CFL News
September 06, 2011

Op-Ed: Create more jobs to make American dream come true

Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez writes in a Labor Day op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times that the country is facing a jobs crisis that needs to be solved to protect the American Dream

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

By Jorge Ramirez

My father dreamed that his children would always have opportunities he never realized himself. An immigrant from Mexico who toiled in the meat packing houses of the Back of Yards, even losing a finger on the job, my father wanted his children to have a better life than he had.

Today’s children are growing up in a time when unemployment is still at record-high levels, wages for the majority of workers remain stagnant and the middle class is disappearing before our eyes.

According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is just one job for every 4.5 unemployed workers.

The recession has helped expedite the widening class divide between the haves and the have-nots.

Income inequality in the United States during the past decade has spiked to levels not seen since the Roaring ’20s, which led to the Great Depression.

Between 1993 and 2008, the top 1 percent of Americans captured 52 percent of all income growth in the United States.

In 2010, Standard & Poor’s 500 Index company CEOs received, on average, $11.4 million in total compensation — a 23 percent increase in one year. The ratio of pay for CEOs of the nation’s top corporations to the average hourly worker has surged from 24-1 in the 1960s to as high as 300-1 to 500-1 in recent years.

Henry Ford, one of America’s most famous capitalists and entrepreneurs, once said that “Paying high wages is behind the prosperity of this country.”

But today, Mr. Ford would find this country driving at top speeds in a race to the bottom.

We all share the American dream that our children will have a better life than their parents.

So why do so few actually have a fighting chance?

The fact is our country has a jobs crisis. We need to create more good jobs that will help build strong communities. This will lead to better education, less crime, higher property values and greater economic development.

We can get back on the road to the top, in part, through investment in jobs by the private and public sectors, adopting a fairer tax system, extending unemployment benefits and helping our manufacturing base by enforcing our trade laws and fighting currency manipulation.

This Labor Day is a wake-up call for the 99 percent of Americans who seek fairness, opportunity, prosperity and, most of all, a future for all of us.

Similarly, it should be a wake-up call to elected leaders to focus on the single most important issue affecting our country today and tomorrow: jobs.


Jorge Ramirez is president of the Chicago Federation of Labor.