Richard Trumka

Solutions to big problems don’t fit on a bumper sticker.

Working families in Arizona need comprehensive and proven policies that will build shared prosperity for everyone in America who works hard and plays by the rules.

It can’t be a nip here or a tuck there. We need policies with the scale and boldness to turn around our economy, so it isn’t run by and for the richest Americans any more.

Our unemployment rate in Arizona is still too high at 8.3 percent. We have the second highest foreclosure rate in the country and our poverty rate of 15.1 percent, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau, is the fifth highest. Real and effective solutions to address these staggering statistics are absolutely necessary.

Good people can disagree, but America has not had honest and meaningful debate for a long time. So this

Labor Day, in honor of all working people, let's put forth some serious ideas to consider.

There’s a blueprint to work from. It’s called “Prosperity Economics: Building an Economy for All” and was written by professor Jacob Hacker and Nathaniel Lowentheil from Yale University. The core idea that underpins each of the policy recommendations is that broadly shared prosperity produces better long-term economic strength than inequality.

"Prosperity Economics" contrasts sharply to the austerity urged by leading Republicans for the past 30 years and endorsed wholeheartedly by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Austerity is a failure. It has lowered wages and degraded the wealth of our families.

Decades of government cutbacks have decimated the agencies that protect us. Oil spills and other environmental catastrophes are too common and too destructive. Too many people are being hurt and injured on the job. Food safety has suffered. And austerity endangers core American programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Why have we followed this path? It’s not a noble mission, we can promise you that. We did it to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and to allow Wall Street and corporate CEOs to enrich themselves at our expense.

Our vision is different. It offers a solid program for a bright future. We can rebuild a healthy economy by reconnecting wages to productivity. The key and best way to do that is by protecting the right of working people to organize and bargain collectively through a union on the job.

The time for action is now. Our economy is sagging. To turn this slowdown into growth will require ambitious workforce training and huge investments in basic research in emerging technologies. We’ll need to rebuild crumbling roads, bridges, and airports. And we’ll need to restore U.S. manufacturing by reforming our trade policies. We’ll ending tax incentives for outsourcing and give states the financial help to hire back teachers, first responders and other public service workers.

Our main goal should be a path to financial security for everyone in America. Every student must have an opportunity to attend college or acquire the skills needed to reach his or her full potential. We must strengthen Social Security and commit to a secure and dignified retirement and access to quality health care for all Americans.

We can do all of this, and we can clean up our economy. We have the resources. America remains a fantastically wealthy and productive nation.

We can break the lock that Wall Street and the richest one percent have held on our democracy.

Our policies offer a chance for today’s young people—and the generations after them—to inherit good jobs and a growing middle class. These are the solutions that offer a light at the end of our long economic tunnel.

Those seeking the support of working people in November and beyond should take notice. The American public is smart and tough. We have a vision. Will you embrace it?

It’s time for real solutions to the real problems we face. America wants prosperity, not another round of austerity.

• Richard Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO and Rebekah Friend is a Mesa resident and executive director of the Arizona AFL-CIO.

(12) comments


The problem with unions is they pretend we're still in an American economy, when we're in a global economy. The GM bailout was nothing more than taxpayers paying outlandish pensions so people can retire at an unreasonable, young age. It's no small wonder they're broke. Paying someone reasonably and what they're worth doesn't mean you make them a millionaire at 50.


Maybe he can help me with the math, just need to raise taxes on the rich to make a one Trillion yearly deficit go away? Decimated the agencies that protect us? You have to be joking or only speaking to people who live in a bubble. Who believes that Government agencies are decimated? I would say their are more agencies (that do who knows what) and more government employees then ever.


Tumka et. al.:

How's that "prosperity economics" (aka Socialism) working out for you over in Greece, y'all?


Blue-collar unions are an anachronism. Evolution of industry has left them behind along with blue-collar jobs. One can follow the natural cultural trend; hunter/gatherer, tilling/farming, manufacturing, automation, technical, digital, information, whatever is next, etc. The U.S. has evolved beyond labor intensive farming, manufacturing, resource mining and drilling. Even the auto mechanic needs to be technically trained. Grunt work jobs have moved to countries that are in the farming and manufacturing phase of industry. Those jobs are not coming back because the U.S. has evolved beyond that phase of industry. Politics and taxes did not export jobs, evolution did. Even China is losing some jobs to third world countries that have stabilized enough to support an unsophisticated manufacturing force requiring manual labor and little training. Only the trades (carpentry, plumbing, electricians) remain legitimately within the domain of organized labor.

Look how many jobs are required to move containerized cargo compared to only 50 years ago when ships and trains were loaded and unloaded by hand and forklifts. Even though those remaining jobs are union jobs, unions benefit neither the worker nor employer. They only restrain motivation and restrict incentive. Requiring that a “fireman” and a “conductor” ride on a modern train requiring neither is typical of union mentality and corruption. It is a form of blackmail.

If unions were able to “give” as well as “receive” they might have a place in the modern work force. Skilled technicians, engineers and scientists have little love for unions. Unions don’t pay for the education required nor do they provide industry specific training. Technically skilled workers pay for their own education and companies pay for training that is unique to the product or job. Unions are not able to offer apprentice or journeyman workers to industry nor do they have benefits to offer employees. They do however collect dues and offer anti-employer rhetoric while interfering with employee/management communication.

Skilled workers tend to be results oriented and unions get in the way. Skilled workers are courted by industry which offers incentives that would be union negotiated in a blue-collar work force. In the information age unions only take. They take away the ability to excel and compete from the worker and the ability to promote and reward from the employer.

If unions could find a way to benefit well educated, skilled professionals they might have a purpose. If they could offer replacement workers, apprentice training or a better worker, they might have a purpose. As they exist now, for the new technically skilled, professional worker, they are only a parasite with no symbiotic function.


'Decades of government cutbacks have decimated the agencies that protect us.'

LOL LOL LOL. 16 trillion in debt. Dirty air, dirty water, no medicine for Granny. Same tired old themes.

The ability of some people to lie and then talk through the lie is an amazing skill that shows a complete lack of moral fiber and an empty soul.


I worked in the I.U.E.C. international union of elevator constructors for 18 years until finally being so fed up by the unions moves that helped the union bosses not the rank and file members I quit and have been working for a non union company for over 6 years and I make more money better benefits and the lazy morons that work here not only don't make the same amount of money as I do, but they can actually fire them! I say Union No way! Never Again and to all my former bros in the iuec local 18 out of Pasadena Ca Follow me! you'll be so glad you did! freedom is wonderful!


I wonder if chumka was part of Obama's plan that saved over a million auto worker jobs even though counting all foreign and domestic automakers only total 700,000,000 workers, lies lies on top of more lies![sad]


Ricahard Chumka is an embarrassment to all hard working Americans and union members he made a moron of himself during his defeat in Wisconsin's recall vote and every time he opens his mouth. I love him because with morons like him around, the dems will never get into power again say good bye barrack! maybe you and chumka can do some golfing after November, I now the swearing in of Romney wont happen until January but I'm pretty sure the American people will happily let you go early!


Haven't we been trying to implement all these programs you are calling for under Obama? I thought the 800 billion dollar stimulus was for doing the shovel ready projects and cutting the unemployment to under 6% and getting teachers and first responders back to work. Now you demand that every business allocate their profits on a shared basis. What other communist goodies do you propose? Unions and collective bargaining along with government taxes and regulations has produced the outsourcing you hate so much. Now you want to redo the trade agreements and charge high import tariffs that will kill export jobs and cause massive inflation. You want everyone to got to college even though those that have degrees can't get a job. You want, you want and you want, but are unwilling to give. Such is the philosophy of a liberal/progressive/communist union boss such as you.

Happy Labor Day to everyone else.

Arizona Willie

thor2013 --- considering your attitude -- I bet your union is glad you left too.


When the goons of the new corporate robber barons destroy the labor movement the Republican oligarchy wins and we will become their slaves........again.


Prosperity & economics building an economy for all RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mainly following Cloward & Piven socilstic idealogies where everyone shares wages, benefits and all the priveleges.
I use to be a Union member and a steward as well as a Rep. Most union employees dont even know where there money is really going as to dues. Sure they'll you one thing to your face or in a publication but actually its all smoke and mirrors.
Granted Unions where good at one time and did a lot for all working class's but to much corruption has plaqued a good thing and still goes on. Im ashamed of ever being a Union member and glad I forfieted my pension with my union.
Come to find out most pensions when you die go back to the Union not your spouse or siblings which was my case. In fact the union I belong to change their policies behind everyones back and fail to notify members. Dues also go for gambling trips, vacation trips as well.
One thing for sure after doing my own investigation my union did not like the idea of me finding out about Beck's Law and tried to gag me which did not work. Most members should read Beck's law and other surrounding employment laws before working for a union. Glad I did.

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