Happy Labor Day! The national holiday came about as an actual day of contrition by Congress for murdered striking railroad workers, although a union, the Knights of Labor, had been organizing celebrations before the Pullman Strike, along with the Central Labor Union. There were other great labor strikes and even after unions received many rights from Congress violence against workers was still going on.
What is more striking is how lost labor is today and the holiday is seem more for consumer sales than contemplating work life in America. The history of labor shows many people have died in America fighting for wages, benefits, a safe work environment and an eight hour work day. Yet that war for workers is mostly forgotten. Now we have sales, picnics and barbecues and many falsely believe the holiday is a celebration for the end of summer. The battles for labor have been swept under the rug as hard fought wages and rights are continually being eroded.
Where is Labor now?
Unions have been under attack for over 30 years and corporations are more powerful than ever. CEOs get obscene amounts of money while workers are squeezed. Union membership is at an all time low and wages by any measure are flat. Union busting and declaring bankruptcy to get out of worker pension obligations is now common and doesn't seem to generate a ripple of public outcry. Part-time hours and bad jobs are at record highs, never mind the dismal employment statistics of the last five years. The Economic Policy Institute created a pay recalculator where one can see what worker compensation really should be today if wages kept up with productivity. What we have today are simply more economic metrics painting more detail in the American labor depressing picture. While Wall Street awaits employment statistics, their concern isn't about employing America, works and people. Wall Street's only concern is about making money off of quantitative easing. Short story long, American labor has lost their power and multinational corporations rule the roost. That is the state of American labor today.
What To Do?
Like most Americans we can talk until we are blue in the face and not a damn thing changes. As we saw, the Occupy Wall Street movement was systematically crushed, millions of Americans trying to organize were silenced and dispersed. Our courts and justice system for labor is rigged, biased towards corporations with deep pockets and legions of attorneys. Most labor lawsuits never even get started and if they do, most often they are waited out with overwhelming legal fees. In spite of the undeniable evidence bad trade deals are crucifying the American worker, politicians lie through their teeth to get elected and they just pass more of them. The AFL-CIO creates a site, fixmyjob.com on the premise of being a worker resource, yet is busy advocating for more immigration which will greatly increase the supply of workers. Obviously under these economic conditions America just isn't creating enough jobs for the people already here. In other words, our unions are quite often taking action that will harm workers further. The press too is often quite anti-labor. On labor's special day, we have a flurry of articles lambasting workers, the unemployed and the efforts to raise the minimum wage. Workers in the United States have so little time off in comparison to most nations, many are working on this national holiday for labor. One can continue to fight, to organize, to speak out, but bottom line multinational corporations control the nation and America's government is corrupt. Until that changes, the American worker will continue to dwindle in stature and how low this goes is anyone's guess.
Day of Mourning
Unfortunately things look to simply get worse for the U.S. worker. Instead of consumer sales and hot dogs, we think Labor Day should become a national day of mourning for the American workforce. Maybe Memorial Day and Labor Day should be tied together. While the nation honors their veterans, maybe American labor will get their due in remembrance of a nation gone by as well. Certainly if one looks at where the U.S. worker is today, there is very little to celebrate and plenty to grieve.