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Working Families Still Squeezed | The Nation

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The Notion

Unfiltered takes on politics, ideas and culture from Nation editors and contributors.

Working Families Still Squeezed

There were grumblings from all corners of the AFL-CIO at its winter meeting in Orlando recently. "Disappointment", "disillusionment", "unengaged", these words and worse peppered press reports describing labor's view of President Obama and the Democrats.

Organized labor spent $200 million to help elect the president and support of its 15 million members is considered absolutely critical for Democrats to hold the line this November.

The president's failure to deliver on two key issues: labor law reform and taxing Cadillac health plans, have enraged union members who see cumbersome rules as an impediment to organizing new workplaces and taxes on their hard-won health benefit packages as just plain wrong.

There are plenty of other places to get new tax revenue, as they see it.

While Wall Street continues to show signs of stability--in fact, 2009 was a very profitable year for America's financial community--Main Street continues to hurt and hurt bad. Bailout money kept Wall Street alive, say unionists, but little of it has made its way to American working families. Many economists now project unemployment above 8% for years to come, with growth in jobs centered in the low-paying service sector, where unions have little presence.

President Obama's emphasis on renewable energy projects as a source of job creation gets few cheers from labor, who see developments in that sector as very slow-moving: get consumers to buy energy-saving things and the work will follow. That could be years in the making.

What's to happen to American families in need this year?

We are fast approaching 100 million Americans--one third this country's population--living at twice the poverty level or less, according to the Brookings' Institution. That translates into take-home pay of just three thousand dollars a month or less for a family of four. Union Families expect more -- and top union officials are already expressing strong concerns -- that if they don't get more, soon -- don't expect them to be able to deliver for Democrats in the fall.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

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