Thursday, August 29, 2013

Labor Day suddenly controversial?

Despite a unanimous vote, there was a little argument over a symbolic Labor Day resolution passed by the Johnson County supervisors today.

Before the vote, Republican John Etheredge said he would vote for the resolution despite disagreeing with parts of it.

Following the vote Etheredge said the specific language that concerned him was: "unions continue to fuel the growth of our economy and a strng middle class,"

"If you go to a livable wage it doesn't facilitate a persons ability to afford items. In the end the consumer always pays," said Etheredge. "That burden is actually on the taxpayers. We should focus on quality rather than whether it's union or not. I just don't like pitting people against each other, union vs. non-union. It's the person and the people and the work ethic, not whether it's union or not."

"Living wage should not be a controversial issue," said Board chair Janelle Rettig. "You should be able to work 40 hours a week and pay your bills."

"I don't see the things that the clerks and ambulance drivers and sheriff's deputies do as a burden," said Rod Sullivan; "I see it as a benefit."

We went with the cheaper labor at HHS," said Pat Harney, discussing the county building opened in 2008 and built by a non-union firm, "and now we're paying the price for it."

City Federation of Labor President Pat Hughes, accepting the proclamation, said "Because a non-union contractor knows how much union workers earn, they can just care enough off a bid to just slip in. The savings are insignificant and the money goes to the boss."

"We think it's our mission to represent all workers, not just union members," said Jesse Case of the Teamsters, noting that union contracts set the wage and benefit standards for non-union labor as well.

Hughes also said wage theft, especially of last checks for a job, is common in Johnson County. "Workers still have to fight for their own justice and dignity."

Full audio of the discussion will be available later in the day. Full text of the proclamation:
WHEREAS, hard-working men and women across Johnson County prove that we are home to the most creative, dynamic, and talented workers in the world, on Labor Day and throughout the year, we celebrate our County's workers; and

WHEREAS, the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value.  Since its beginnings, organized labor has raised our living standards and built our middle class.  It is the reason we have child labor laws, 40-hour weeks, weekends, overtime, vacations, the minimum wage, sick leave, parental leave, OSHA, employment nondiscrimination, pensions, Social Security, health insurance, and so much more.  Many Americans today are given opportunities because their parents and grandparents fought for these basic rights and values.  The principles upheld by the honorable laborers of generations past and their unions continue to fuel the growth of our economy and a strong middle class; and

WHEREAS, there is a vigorous fight to protect these rights and values, and on this Labor Day, we reaffirm that collective bargaining is a cornerstone of the American dream.  From public employees -- including SEATS Drivers, Social Workers, Ambulance employees, Clerks, Plow Drivers, Sheriff’s Deputies, and others who perform public services -- to workers in private industries, these men and women hold the power of our Nation in their hands.

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that we, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, do hereby proclaim Monday, September 2, 2013, as:


and call upon all people of Johnson County to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that acknowledge the tremendous contributions of working Americans and their families.

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