August 26, 1996
Progressive Group Aimed at Non-Union Workers Marks First Anniversary
August 21st marked the first anniversary of Workers of America (WoA), a non-profit membership organization committed to providing a greater voice for the concerns of American workers. The specific WoA mission is to:
One year ago, armed with little more than an idea, WoA was formed in direct response to the angst being experienced by American workers. Israel Gotay and Bruce Weiner, who partnered to launch the grassroots organization, were determined to see if worker unease about downsizing, pay, work hours and benefits could be translated into an organization that could begin to address those concerns. The organization is targeted primarily at the 85 percent (90 million) workers who are not union members.
Gotay and Weiner, in launching the organization with no major financial backing, had no illusions about the difficulty of such an effort. Faced with a rather hostile environment, they were working against a tide that has witnessed, over the past three decades, a series of laws and court decisions that have undermined worker rights and resulted in a precipitous drop in union membership. Perhaps worse, advocacy for better conditions for workers faced a hostile Republican Congress and what appeared to be a growing right-wing Republican movement that worships at the alter of corporate greed and staunchly opposes any effort to give workers a greater share of the economic success of the nation.
Although Workers of America considers its first anniversary as only an initial milestone in a long and undoubtably arduous journey, Gotay and Weiner have been warmed by the enthusiastic response to their initial efforts. Membership in the organization currently spans 34 states and more than a fifth of the 435 congressional districts across the country.
In spite of a Republican majority in Congress that has staunchly opposed anything equating to help for workers, election year politics have produced two new laws favorable to the average worker -- an increase in the minimum wage and increased portability of health care benefits. The long overdue minimum wage increase is particularly important, providing a raise for more than 10 million workers. In spite of these election year successes, however, a lot remains to be done to help workers. Says Weiner, WoA president, "the minimum wage, even after the full increase takes effect, is still insufficient to pull low wage families above the poverty line. Millions of workers are paying a payroll tax for Medicare while they themselves can not afford even minimal health care coverage for themselves and their families. And there are other major issues that deserve attention, such as unfair trade policies that sacrifice American workers in favor of corporate profits and the need for greater corporate responsibility toward both employees and the community."
Although modest in size, Workers of America is unique -- there is no other national organization working to represent the concerns of the 90 million American workers who are not union members. Weiner and Gotay are in it for the long haul, and have plans to expand WoA to all 50 states and 435 congressional districts by the congressional elections in 1998.
In 1996, corporations are pouring millions of dollars into political campaigns in order to maintain or increase their influence over economic policy. Unfortunately, the politicians know that, in spite of the millions being spent by the AFL-CIO to counter business interests, less than 15 percent of workers are represented by unions and the remaining 85 percent are largely unorganized. The result is that they pay little heed to worker concerns. The good news is that workers have the numbers on their side. Workers of America’s aim is to get more of those non-union workers to come together into a more coherent force, and level the playing field to enable workers to get a fairer share of the economic success of the nation.
Return to Workers of America home page.