Today is Labor Day in America. For those who live in colder climates it is the last bash of the summer. For the last twenty years I have lived in warmer climates where seasons don’t mean as much. Having no need for one I haven’t owned what I considered to be a real winter coat during that time period. I’m not so naïve as to expect the parties and celebration to cease but I would like every American to take a few minutes to reflect on how we got here, particularly the sacrifices those before us made, what the future looks like and what you can do to shape it. Let’s explore.
To me Labor Day and the union movement are synonymous. Whether you are a union member or not things like the five day, forty hour work week only came about because of organized labor. Same for the weekend and eight hour work day; ditto for health insurance, (with a little assist from World War II wage controls). In other words the only reason American workers are treated like human beings is because they organized and collectively bargained.
In that process many suffered immensely. Many died; a lot lost wages and risked their livelihood. In reality the alternative was often to work in dangerous conditions that would eventually kill them leaving behind penniless loved ones. Probably the biggest example of exploited labor was the slaves. In that case some moral Americans and a Civil War began their path to dignity.
Starting with the Reagan administration the union movement has been continually weakened. The biggest joke is the so-called Right to Work Laws many states have enacted. If there were a truth in labeling law in effect they would be called Right to be Exploited Laws (I’m cleaning up my language to maintain my PG rating for articles.) They are nothing more than union-busting laws to make it easy to exploit workers.
Simply put there is strength in numbers. It is easy for a deep pocket, powerful employer to exploit an individual employee. Anyone can be replaced. When labor acts as a unit it becomes a fair contest. It is difficult, if not impossible, to replace an entire workforce overnight.
Take that a step further. I was raised in a time and place where laborers, union or non-union, respected a picket line. If your workforce went on strike don’t expect truck drivers to cross the picket line to deliver raw materials. Few, if any, would cross the picket line in an attempt to replace them even on a temporary basis.
Since the Reagan administration the unions have steadily declined. Simultaneously the real wages of the American worker have basically remained stagnant. Interestingly, and I contend not coincidentally, corporate profits and CEO pay have exploded.
Not by accident the Republican influence has extended to the federal courts including the Supreme Court which have consistently stripped rights from the little guy in favor of large corporations.
While the Republicans are working hard to take your vote away you still have it. If you will note the Russians are interfering with our elections – and expect it to be worse than 2016 in 2020 – in an attempt to dissuade you from voting. Do you honestly think the Russians are trying to boost the American economy in which consumer demand is 70% of total demand?
Enjoy your Labor Day celebration and then make sure you help elect people who will support the rights of workers. Exercise your vote and political freedom or you will lose it. Remember the price those who came before you paid.
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