It’s no mystery that work in America just isn’t working — not for the millions of unemployed men and women, or for those stuck working longer hours at lower pay.

Our work force is scared, stressed, and scarred by financial insecurity. Working conditions may only worsen as our economic climate opens the door for more exploitation.

The National Employment Law Project found that more than two-thirds of low-wage employees surveyed in 2008 lost 15 percent of their pay on average due to the growing problem of wage theft by U.S. employers. An astounding 62 percent of workers surveyed by Nebraska Appleseed Center in 2008 said they had been injured on the job in the previous year.

How can such gross mistreatment be allowed?

Because corporations know current labor laws aren’t threatening in the least. And they know that our leaders in Washington have prioritized their bottom lines over those of working men and women.

Our nation’s leaders have a choice to make. They can continue to turn the other cheek as employers flush job standards down the drain, or they can ensure that the jobs of tomorrow are good, decent jobs that will move Americans into recovery.

Yes, we need to put people to work, and it is imperative that Congress pass legislation to provide incentives for businesses to hire more workers and extend unemployment benefits for those struggling to find jobs and pay the bills.

But make no mistake: We must not let our standards go by the wayside in the name of job creation. We must ensure the jobs that are being created are good jobs.

We can do that by giving workers a stronger voice and a fairer shake through meaningful labor law reform. When Congress meaningfully protects workers’ rights to join unions, workers will have a level playing field to improve their workplaces, and a real path to gain job security, better health care and decent benefits. The status quo of awful jobs, a lack of accountability by employers and no sizable progress on making the economy work for everyone is unacceptable.

Our nation’s workers have given more than their fair share of sacrifices and patience. They are playing by the rules, they want to rebuild the economy, and they are willing to work harder. They deserve better.

Kimberly Freeman Brown is the executive director of American Rights at Work, a workers’ rights organization based in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at

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A huge win, it's also just a hit on the pause button. Here's some context and ideas about paths forward.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

White supremacist posters on campuses play on ignorance and fear within the very institutions that should be our...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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