The forty hour work week. Child labor laws. Rising wages. The eight hour work day.
These are a few of the things that workers forming unions have won for all of us. In fact, one of my favorite eight hour work day stories goes like this. It started during a time when the average work day was twelve hours. When loggers were unable to negotiate a shorter day, they took to wearing whistles around their neck. At the end of an eight hour day, leaders blew the whistle as a signal and everyone on the job walked off. This continued and spread until, over years, the eight hour workday became the norm. The eight hour day is something that has been struggled for across the globe.
These days, we see a lot of basic humane working conditions evaporating. Because corporations wave the specter of cheap labor in other countries, they have been able to slowly get us used to working ten hours a day or more just to hang on to our jobs. Jobs that have benefits are now seen as something rare, and also something workers don’t deserve because, well, barely anyone else is getting them.
Wealthy owners have lied to workers. We believe now that they will go broke if we get any more than the least amount of wages they can get away with paying us. But they’re far away from the reality of most of the working poor. Here, Rachel Maddow talks with author Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America. If you have not read this book, it’s a must read. I’ve owned it for years. If you’ve never known much about what it’s like to live on the financial edge, it will open your eyes. If you know what the edge of the money envelope looks like, this book will reassure you that you’ve not lost your mind. It can really get that bad.
Watch the interview here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#44083648