A few Labor Day thoughts, a day late and a dollar short:
1) It would be nice to have a party that consistently paid attention to and fought for the interests of working people, and didn't lose sight of those interests in the crush of other business.
Didn't Obama say something in his inaugural speech about increasing the minimum wage? I'm not seeing any legislation. I'm not seeing any attempt at a push for it. Instead, we're putzing around with Syria. Excuse me, but what's more important to the American people, Syria or a minimum wage increase? It needs to go up to $12 in a series of steps between now and the end of 2016.
2) It's time to widen the issues around work. While I'm not comfortable with the idea of a guarantee of full employment, I think there should be a fairly low limit on how bad it can get without an automatic response kicking in.
The Federal government should have a list of infrastructure projects, rank them by urgency and usefulness and identify them by region, and when unemployment gets as high as 7%, it should automatically borrow enough money to spend sufficiently on infrastructure projects, particularly in the high-unemployment areas of the country, until we got unemployment back down below 6%.
3) With defined-benefit pension funds getting raided everywhere you can see, and 401k's having proved largely useless, it's time to expand Social Security, not trim it. And the Social Security retirement age should be brought back down to 65; it should never have gone up.
4) Simplify and expand the 40-hour week: Everyone below 2x the median male full-time, year-round income, rounded up to the next thousand, gets time and a half for overtime. Doesn't matter if they're supervisors, professionals, or what have you. And if you make above 2x the median, and below 4x the median, you get paid for overtime at the 2x rate.
Right now, that median is $48,202, so you'd get time and a half for overtime if you made less than $97,000, and you'd get paid for overtime as if you were making $97K a year if your base salary was between $97K and $194K.
5) And make that double time after 60 hours. The more scarce your time off is, the more valuable it is to you, and the more your employer should have to pay to take it away.
6) Paid vacation and sick time: a worker should earn one day of vacation and a half-day of sick leave for every 4 weeks on the job. And just to keep it immune from full-time/part-time games, it should be calculated in terms of hours: every 40 hours worked gets you 2 hours of vacation and 1 hour of sick leave.
7) Regular schedules: this game of jerking low-wage employees' schedules around so that their hours may vary all over the place from one day to the next, and not knowing what their schedule is from one week to the next, has got to go. If the average number of hours a day an employee works is N hours, then his or her hours must fit in the same (N+2)-hour window every day, and s/he must get time and a half for any hours outside that window.
For instance, if an employee works six days a week and averages five hours a day, then the hours must fit inside the same 7-hour time period every day, e.g. from 8am to 3pm. That gives the employee some predictability, to be able to arrange for child care or take on a second job.
It upsets me that such thing don't seem to be even remotely on the Democratic Party's radar, let alone something it'll keep coming back to and fighting for until it wins them. I don't know what to do about that, but we've certainly got to do something.