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Labor Day pains?05 Sep 2006 12:16 pm

Is there any other holiday that’s easier for all Americans to rally around? Come on. We all work. At least most of us work, or did work at some time in our lives. But today’s newspapers, both local and national, had little to say about the parades and celebrations that occurred yesterday. We ate our hotdogs and potato salad, but for the most part, the workers of America didn’t take to the streets holding posters and chanting words of encouragement for the working stiff.

I suppose you’re all doing okay. Your paycheck is fat enough. Your health insurance covers all your medical problems with little hassle. Your hours and workloads are reasonable. You’ve got your retirement plan sewed up and can expect a hefty pension to make your aging years comfortable.

Or maybe not. If you believe the numbers, workers today are actually losing a lot of ground when it comes to their paychecks, benefits and prospects for retirement.

Let’s look at the history of Labor Day. How did it all start in the first place?

The U.S. Department of Labor says: “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

PBS’ NewsHour, which I trust for most of my news, says: “The observance of Labor Day began over 100 years ago. Conceived by America’s labor unions as a testament to their cause, the legislation sanctioning the holiday was shepherded through Congress amid labor unrest and signed by President Grover Cleveland as a reluctant election-year compromise.”

A workforce in unrest was given a holiday. Well, it was given a bit more than that of course. It was given a boost to its validity, a boost to the demands of working stiffs throughout the United States.

So what could workers get today? Another day off wouldn’t be bad but it probably will do little to change many of the negatives things that have transpired in recent years. The gap between employee salaries and those of top executives is widening, and while companies make bigger profits, workers are getting a smaller share. “In no other recovery from a post-World War II recession did corporate profits ever account for as much as 20 percent of the growth in national income and at no time did corporate profits ever increase by a greater amount than labor compensation,” according to a study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

Is this a momentary glitch in the work-time continuum, or will this contribute to a growing gap between the rich and the not so rich?

Will a president, many years from now, need to proclaim another day for workers as he or she faces reelection? (FYI, Grover was not reelected.)

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Where is everybody?01 Sep 2006 09:12 am
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