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COLUMN: Workers must continue their fight for the American Dream

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By NANCY GUYOTT, Guest Columnist

As Americans mark another Labor Day it’s high time for some hard truth. Like no time in recent memory, the American worker is losing ground – and that’s certainly the case here in Indiana.

Men and women are working harder, longer and are making less and less. And, each day the American Dream is slipping out of reach for more and more of our citizens. So how do we stop this backward slide? It begins with ending the incessant attacks on working people. In the last year, Hoosiers faced down well-orchestrated efforts to lower their wages, roll back worker safety standards, eliminate retirement security and severely restrict their ability to have a voice in the workplace.

These measures don’t create a single new job or benefit the economy as a whole – they only weaken workers’ ability to earn a living and have a say in the workplace. Secondly, we must return to an America and an Indiana where everyone is willing to do their part. In the last 30 years the richest one percent’s income has doubled, while their tax rates have been cut in half. Excessive greed by corporations and their chief executive officers has ushered in an era where the super rich enjoy unneeded tax loopholes, dodges, shelters and abatements that working people end up paying for – and after decades of promises, the trickle-down effect still hasn’t reached the worker.

The rich are indeed getting richer and working people are getting poorer.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, working people must stop allowing ourselves to be distracted and divided. All too often we allow ourselves to be tricked into being pitted against each other. Politicians, shilling for corporate America, get our blood boiling with tall tales of excessive employee pensions, greedy teachers and mythical all-powerful “union bosses.”

These fantasies are designed to create jealousy over your neighbor who can afford a Buick rather than a Chevy, while the real culprits have mansions in gated communities, a fleet of luxury cars, yachts and jets.

Yet, when was the last time you heard these same politicians complain about the salary of a corporate CEO? When it comes to their salaries, benefits and pensions, it is capitalism. When it comes to the wages of working people, it is corruption.

On this Labor Day weekend, working people across Indiana and the nation should rethink where we stand. We will not get ahead by stepping on or over each other. We will not get ahead if we continue to allow our elected leaders to take away our work-place rights. And we will not get ahead if we are forced to continue to carry the burden alone.

Simply put, working people want work. We want to do our work with pride and dignity, and to contribute to our communities.

We want to put food on the table, pay our taxes, clothe our children, put them through college, save for retirement and enjoy a little family time now and again.

That is our American Dream – and on this Labor Day we must be prepared to fight for it.

Guyott is the first elected female president and the youngest to serve in nearly 50 years for the Indiana AFL-CIO.