Return all workers to the middle class

A recent editorial by The Leader-Herald discussing the overtime issue currently playing out in the town of Johnstown was surprising. While I personally disagree with the resolution passed by the town, I was more concerned at the editorial board’s perception of the condition of working families, not only in our local community but throughout the state and nation.

The editorial contends that overtime pay for working outside of a normal shift is outdated by arguing the public sector should mirror that of the private sector, whom rarely have a typical 40-hour workweek of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m shifts due to the demands of their private employer.

While I may be a public employee, this is not an issue of public versus private. It is an issue of whether working class families will survive. History books are written so we may review the past and learn to become better people, communities and society. A quick history lesson shows on May 24, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a bill to Congress with a message that America should be able to give “all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” He continued: “A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling worker’s wages or stretching workers’ hours.” This was the start of the 40-hour maximum workweek. A 40 hour workweek allowed for the middle class to thrive. The idea of dinner around the kitchen table and families having weekend trips were all made possible by this simple idea.

Today, in a country where the majority of wealth is controlled by a few it is unfortunate workers are forced to continually change their work schedule, disrupting their everyday life. These situation forces individuals to sacrifice time with their family, time in their communities, and the hope of a middle class FDR sought. Parents no longer have the ability to schedule homework time, coach a Little League team or volunteer at their church. This continues the trend of rushing to the bottom. As a community, as a state, as a nation we should strive to return the private-sector and public-sector to the levels that built a strong middle class, including fair workweeks, fair wages, and fair compensation for overtime.

RON BRIGGS

President, Fulton County CSEA local 818