Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Wake-up Call

It's been 116 years since the first Monday in September became a national holiday called Labor Day to honor the men and women of America's working class during the administration of President Grover Cleveland. Yet, the plight of the working class in 2010 is about as bad as it can get! Pensions, job stability, medical insurance benefits with employment, work safety rules, decent wages and workplace dignity are becoming as endangered as polar bears facing extinction. The goal of most corporations is to make the highest profit possible with the lowest number of people employed. CEO's don't get "downsized, the working stiff does. Unemployment is at record highs with no light to be seen at the at the end of that long tunnel of downsizing to keep up record profits. All the benefits earned by over a century of advances made by the workers are being tossed aside. These are a few of the things working people cannot now take for granted, an 8 hour work day, a 40 hour work week, paid vacations, protection for child workers, safety rules, extra pay for overtime work, holiday pay, there are more, but you get the idea! Gains made by labor through union membership, strikes, work stoppage, legislation and yes, the shedding of blood, have been ground up finer than a MacDonald's hamburger so that more profit reaches the top and less compensation reaches the bottom. Union membership is down, unemployment is up. Corporate profits are up, a huge segment of the American population doesn't know where their next job, or meal is coming from. Having a holiday named Labor Day in honor of workers seems pretty shallow comfort if you are undernourished or unemployed. Our ancestors in the labor movement must be rolling over in their graves!
Short of a worker's revolution, what can be done to get back to justice and equality in the working world? Work to push enactment of the Employee's Free Choice Act would be a great first step. Then, join a union to represent you in bargaining with employers. If there isn't a union for what you do for a living, start one. Demand a living wage, no one should work for less than what their labor is worth. Do you honestly believe that CEO's deserve to make millions while the people who produce their profits get a pittance? Next, work to get rid of the minimum wage law and change it to a living wage law. The original intent of the minimum wage law was that no should have to work for less than that amount, but has been subverted to become a slave wage. If you can't feed yourself, and house yourself and live in a decent manner on the wage you are paid, then it's a slave wage!
The final comment I would like to make is, don't undervalue your labor. If you can, get educated on labor laws and get as much information as you can find on unions. If we organize and educate ourselves, no one will ever pull the wool over our eyes again. When President Obama asks Congress for the 50 billion dollars to repair the infrastructure and create jobs, support him by contacting your representative or senator and tell them you want it passed! Don't take no for an answer! This country was built by working men and women and we deserve a piece of the compensation pie! Jobs, unions, living wages, workplace dignity can be achieved if we all are involved. Solidarity, solidarity! Then we can really celebrate Labor Day!