Matt’s Thoughts on Labor

Having just passed Labor Day and looking at current issues surrounding Unions and living wages, Matt found two things he wrote just before voting to increase the minimum wage back in 2006.  Please see them below:



September 2014

By:  Matt Patrick

Growing up in a very active Democratic family I always knew that there was a strong connection between the party and labor unions.  My mother was the mayor of my home town but she was also one of the local party’s most active organizers.  The union guys were always involved in the party and its biggest supporters.  My father and uncles were members of the teachers’ unions.    Clearly, there were and still are strong connections between the Democratic Party and labor unions.  What can be more important than supporting your family?  What can be more important than making sure you have bread on the table, a roof over your head and a decent place to work?

One major difference between the political parties is their stand on labor unions.  As a rule, Republicans don’t like labor unions and will do anything to hinder them.  The decline in union membership and influence has much to do with policies set in place by Republican presidents and their majorities in congress from time to time over the years.

Democrats, on the other hand, have always supported organized labor and have been responsible for passing into law many labor protections that we take for granted today.  Because of the labor movement and Democrats, we have an 8 hour work day, a 40 hour work week, workman’s compensation, Social Security and child labor laws.

There was open class warfare between labor and management in the first half of the 20th century.  Hundreds of workers died in strikes fighting for wage increases when they couldn’t feed their families.  Workers were working 12 hour days 7 days a week right into the 1940’s.  Children often worked side by side with adults forgoing their education.  If you were hurt on the job there was no safety net for you or your family.  If you were dismissed for no good reason you had no recourse.  Labor unions changed that and we should never forget it.

Even today being a member of a union has benefits especially for low wage workers according to a recent study entitled Unions and Upward Mobility for Low Wage Workers by Center for Economic and Policy Research.  The study found that low wage union workers earned 16% or $1.75 per hour more than nonunion workers.  And, union workers in low wage jobs were 25% more likely to have health insurance and a pension plan than non-union workers.

This is why I have always supported labor in my ten years as a State Representative.  My labor voting record is better than 90%.  Income inequality also weighs heavily on society as a whole and the labor movement has done more to combat this than anything else.  You can count on me to support labor if I am elected State Senator of the Plymouth and Barnstable District.

10 Reasons to Raise the Minimum Wage (2006), Matt Patrick

Although there are many, these are my top ten reasons to vote for amendments increasing the minimum wage.

  1. In 2005 there were 9 million American millionaires, a 62% increase since 2002.
  2. In 2005, 25.7 million Americans received food stamps, a 49% increase since 2000.
  3. Only 3% of students at the top 146 colleges come from families in the bottom income quartile; only 10% come from the bottom half.
  4. American CEOs are paid $475 for every dollar earned by the average worker in their firm. The U.K. is $22. Canada is $20. France is $15 and Japan is $11. In 1990 American CEOs were about par with these other countries.
  5. Last year the CEO of Wal-Mart earned $3,500 an hour. The CEO of Halliburton earned about $8,300 an hour. And the CEO of ExxonMobil earned about $13,700 an hour.
  6. Bush’s tax cuts give a 2 child family earning $1 million an extra $86,722 or Harvard tuition, room, board, and an iMac G5 for both kids.
  7. A two Child family earning $50,000 gets $2,050 or 1/5 the cost of public college for one kid.
  8. Only the wealthiest 20% of Americans spend more on entertainment than they do on health care.
  9. The $17,530 earned by the average Wal-Mart employee last year was $1,820 below the poverty line for a family of four.
  10. Five of America’s 10 richest people are Wal-Mart heirs.

Sources: Mother Jones, May/June 2006, “The Perks of Privilege, How the rich get richer.” And The Nation, May 1, 2006, “$13,700 an Hour.”