…and by several rich corporations.
I spent my first 50 years living and working in Baltimore. Three generations of my family owned and operated Greenebaum’s Jewelry stores in downtown Baltimore, in East Baltimore, and in Towson. My grandfather started our business in 1908. We had several generations of working people as our loyal customers. We employed people of color at all levels of our company. My father worked in the stores for 60 years. I operated the stores for 30 years. I closed the business in 1980. I am now 85 years old.
We had a credit department in our stores that allowed our customers to charge their purchases and pay what they could afford to pay over a year’s time. When we began our credit department some people paid as little as 50 cents per week. When I entered the business many people were paying us $1 per week. Most of our customers were blue collar workers working in the many large factories in Baltimore. At one time Baltimore had many large factories, manufacturing clothes, steel, military parts, ships, etc. Baltimore was one of the most important manufacturing cities in the country.
Bethlehem Steel had one of the largest steel manufacturing plants in the world in Baltimore. Glen L Martin was one of the largest military manufacturers in the country. We could and did make almost any type of product possible during these busy times.
Generations of families supplied skilled workers for these factories. At first, workers of color were not employed because of the color of their skin. Prejudice against black people was rampant. Our government then passed laws that forced employers to grant employment to people of color.
These laws enabled people of color to gain employment and to be able to buy homes, feed their children, and clothe them.
Many of our customers at our jewelry stores were people of color. They worked hard, paid their bills, and were good citizens.
In those days the Democratic Party was close to the Labor unions and supported them.
Today, both political parties ignore labor unions, and actually reward corporations for outsourcing our jobs and moving factories to foreign countries where they can exploit their poor workers and escape environmental regulations.
Baltimore has lost most of its factories, as have most of the cities in our nation. The people of color living in cities have lost access to good paying jobs, and their children are facing the highest rates of unemployment in the history of our nation. The only jobs available are paying minimum wages or a mite more. Many parents of these children work part time jobs at 2 or more stores.
The CEOs of corporations are making historically high wages and enriching themselves by selling their stock options, as they outsource our jobs, cut hours of their employees, reduce their share of health insurance benefits of their employees, and oppose any increase in the minimum wage.
Our Middle Class is shrinking, and our children are facing higher and higher costs of higher education, while our public schools are losing funding, which results in fewer teachers for a growing population.
This perfect storm is producing desperation for our youths. Their futures are bleak. So when you witness mobs of youths in inner cities demonstrating, you must recognize that our government and their rich corporate friends have betrayed our young. They have allowed selfish corporate CEOs to deindustrustialize our economy by outsourcing our jobs and moving factories out of our country.
We have a Democratic President pushing a trade deal that is much, much worse than NAFTA which cost us over 5 million jobs. NAFTA was pushed by another Democratic President Bill Clinton. NAFTA was only between 3 nations. President Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal is with 12 nations, representing 40% of the world’s economy! The TPP is at least 4 times larger than NAFTA, so we will lose over 20 million more jobs!
When a worker loses his/her job it affects their whole family. Since the average family includes 4 people, this job loss actually affects 80 million people! They may lose their homes, their life savings. And their children may never be able to attend college. Our Democratic President Obama has kept the negotiations of this horrible trade deal SECRET for over one year because he is afraid of the public learning how he and both political parties are selling us out to the corporations who will profit from this rotten trade deal.
And our young people of color living in already desperate circumstances will be pushed farther away from having a better education and a better job.
We must all learn that we cannot trust either political party to represent our needs. They both are representing rich corporations and rich individuals who are only interested in becoming richer and richer, and have no compassion for the 99% who are being affected by their hoarding of wealth and their hiding their riches in tax havens around the world. Trillions of dollars are being hidden by these tax dodgers!
We, the citizens, can stop this corruption by creating an American Labor Party. We, the voters, need a party that represents us. Labor Parties have been created in many other nations and they have passed laws that gave their people free healthcare, free college educations, and high minimum wages.
Australia’s Labour Party got their people a Minimum Wage that increases each year and is now over $ 16 per hour. Our minimum wage is $ 7.25 per hour and has not been changed in over 5 years. The Democrats are saying they will try and raise our Minimum Wage to $ 12 but in the small print, it states that the $12 dollar increase would not be immediate but would be in tiny increments spread out over 5 YEARS! And the Democrats know they do not have the votes to even do this. They are just trying to pretend they care for us.
I have written a blue print of how we can build a strong Labor Party for all of us on my web site www.boldthoughts.org
Howard M. Greenebaum is the author of 3 books on US politics, and an international newspaper columnist.
Photo credit: Flickr