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Ralph Nader > Special Features > Labor Day Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama:

Labor Day 2012 is approaching. Besides your usual Labor Day message, you should consider making this a major event dedicated to America’s workers.

The meaning of Labor Day has been overtaken by the commercialists who see it as a day for shopping and sales. With your bully pulpit there are strong leadership messages regarding long overdue attention to the plight of tens of millions of workers, without unions, and laboring for wages below the inflation-adjusted minimum wage of 1968! Thirty million workers are receiving wages between the present, eroded federal minimum wage of $7.25 and the 1968 adjusted minimum wage which would be $10.35.

Support of an inflation adjusted minimum wage keeping up with inflation starts at 70 percent in the polls. This includes Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney until the latter waffled earlier this year. The moral and economic arguments are overwhelming. Workers have been shortchanged for years while the top fifty largest corporations employing two-thirds of low-wage workers in the U.S. had their CEOs averaging about $9.5 million in compensation or about $1 million every six weeks.

I’ll leave the political pluses for you and your advisors inherent in standing for “catching up with 1968” (See H.R. 5901 sponsored by Jesse Jackson, Jr. and other House members). Releasing tens of billions of dollars in consumer spending by these hard-pressed Americans is good for a recessionary economy.

You have on your White House staff two of the most knowledgeable people on the need for a minimum wage upgrade. Professor Alan Krueger, U.S. Chairman of your Council of Economic Advisors is a leading scholar in this field to rebut the propagandists from the Chamber of Commerce where you visited earlier this year. Gene Sperling was involved in the last adjustment of the minimum wage in 2007 and would be an excellent advocate on this topic.

Many organizations are on the record favoring a living wage including labor, religious, social service, anti-poverty, women’s associations and others with millions of members around the country that await your call. (They should be on the ramparts themselves without waiting, preferably.) Recall your 2008 pledge of $9.50 by 2011 and your words on this point in your July, 2007 address in Anacostia and other speeches. No one can call you an oratorical newcomer on the minimum wage. Bring all together for a briefing and news conference, including the AFL-CIO’s chief, Richard Trumka, followed by an event or two on Labor Day.

How many times the monetized minds of the business lobbies have called on the government to weaken safeguards “to keep up with the global competition.” Well, since the U.S. had the lowest minimum wage by far among major western industrial nations, you’ll help American workers keep up with the wages (but not the social safety net) of laborers in Western Europe and Canada.

There have been 17 tax cuts for small businesses under your Administration. They have already gotten their consideration. It is time for you to address the perceived and desperate needs of thirty million American workers who have waited too long for their government to act in an era of Wall Street bailouts and tax cuts for the wealthy.

If there is anyone arguing the opposite case for the status quo in the White House, I would like their names so that I can hear their assertions.

Sincerely yours,

Ralph Nader