Labor Voices: Americans still dream for a livable wage

Jimmy Settles

Strong communities are based upon a workforce that earns livable wages and benefits. Well-paying jobs are the basic building blocks for creating well-established homes, communities and securing our country’s economic future.

Detroit’s economy was at its best when full-time, good-paying jobs were plentiful. When people had the means the tax base was higher, communities were clean and safe, and small businesses flourished as more people had the necessary resources to invest in the upkeep of their communities.

Additionally, families were able to put food on the table and send their children to college; crime was much lower as a result. Since the loss of manufacturing jobs to developing countries, cities across America have been crippled and in some cases have gone bankrupt. Detroit has a broken education system and homes that have become abandoned, creating acres of blight.

When people are unable to make a livable wage, youth have little to no means to further their education. They instead fall into the school-to-prison pipeline and inevitable generational poverty is created.

Consequently, we must reject the notion that Americans should compete with foreign workers, from a human rights point of view. Such thinking is a breeding ground for desperation, as foreign workers are often forced to accept excessively low wages and compromising work conditions. The long-term economic impact of such doing is global, resulting in failing communities and crippled economies.

Unless the American dream has changed, paying workers a livable wage is part of the fabric of America and will continue to be a cornerstone of the UAW’s fight. This means America is not willing to accept all that comes with changing this course, such as compromises to our standard of living, resulting in severely impoverished living conditions (i.e., clean, running water being reserved for the upper class; allowing child labor because parents are unable to feed them; social services being banished, due to the lack of taxpayers; currency manipulation; sky-rocketed crime rates, and blighted neighborhoods nationwide).

Our forefathers passed the torch and left us with an American workforce worthy of building upon. We must do the same for our children, as we will continue to fight for the American worker to live with dignity.

We must keep the American dream alive, and our standards high. We have to stop accepting lip service from elected officials at all levels. It is your right to take a stand by holding each one accountable. Without such action you have silently agreed. Change comes when we stand in solidarity to make a difference and fight to have our voices heard.

Jimmy Settles is a vice president of the UAW and director of the UAW National Ford Department.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.