A COMMENTARY ABOUT LABOR DAY & LABOR ISSUES

Opinion
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Hilbert Morales
EL OBSERVADOR

Labor Day in the United States is a federal holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement’s contributions made to the social strength, economic prosperity, laws and community well-being of U.S.A. The first three-day weekend of September is now known as Labor Day Weekend; considered the unofficial end of summer in U.S.A.

During the 1880’s, as labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor. “Labor Day” was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, which organized the first Labor Day parade in New York City in 1882. In 1887, Oregon was the first state of U.S.A. to make it an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty U.S. states officially celebrated Labor Day.

More than 80 countries celebrate International Workers Day on May 1 – the ancient European holiday of May Daywhich is considered the beginning of summer.

Canada’s Labour Day is also celebrated on the first Monday of September. Mexico’s Labor Day was celebrated last May 1, 2017 as a day off work and school on the first day of May. Labor Day is considered the end of summer.

The celebration of Labor Day has included a street parade to exhibit and publicly display the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations. Labor Day parades are followed by a festival for the worker’s family and their friends. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon its civil significance. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the Labor movement.

Labor Day Weekend has become another special event for the retailers who offer discounts and allowances to attract consumers having time-off work. The same is true for sporting events such as NASCAR’s auto races; National Hot Rod Association (drag races); U.S Open Tennis Championships; and the professional football leagues. All these events take advantage of large numbers of potential customers with time to enjoy shopping or being a paying spectator.

Some retailers claim it is one of the largest sale dates of the year, second only to the Christmas season’s Black Friday. (Source: Wikipedia: National Labor Day Holiday). So, Labor Day Weekend has become very commercialized.

Today many skilled workers are not unionized so these non-union individuals have no collective bargaining rights as do trade unions such as the American Federation of Labor (AFL); the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), California Teacher Association (CTA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and all those construction trade unions (Steelworkers, United Auto Workers, Plumbers, Carpenters, Roofing, etc.). This listing of unions is incomplete without the professional Office and Administrator’s Associations. Think of the public policy power which could be very effective if all these groups would unite to advocate for their common concerns and interests.

Examples are: equal pay for work requiring the same skill set (i.e., equal pay for equal work); Stopping the practice of having an American skilled laborer train the foreign laborer replacement who will do the same job at lower wages…with the American skilled laborer then being furloughed; health care insurances which include dental, vision and rehabilitation features; include family members and is transferable with the individual; Privatization of Social Security Administration programs; Adoption of foreign trade policy which impacts American jobs (e.g., allowing cheaper foreign steel to enter the American domestic construction market and which caused the RUST BELT) which stretched from Pittsburg, PA to all steel mill centers such as Gary, Indiana. High steel worker layoffs (unemployment) resulted. Recall that Trump Towers was built using cheaper Korean structural steel beams. Without the effective push-back of a representative union this happens unimpeded.

Other common American Labor concerns include health care insurances which are independent of being employed and which deal with benefits such as prescription medications; inclusion of these benefits for family members, etc.; job site safety issues (monitored and enforced by OSHA); a national affordable housing program; improved and continuing Consumer protection Administration to monitoring and enforce existing laws and regulations in the financial industry (banks, mortgages, credit cards, etc.).

The current situation is that legislators are prone to favor the interests of very conservative special interests. One of the first things Republican Governor Scott Walker did upon assuming office was to successfully remove the collective bargaining rights of all Wisconsin’s public labor unions.

In addition to the above concerns, the developments of automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics using increasing levels of computerized technology (cybernetics) are all becoming investments which end up increasing productivity while reducing employment. These remaining employees are invariably ‘knowledge workers’, whose skills are highly rewarded, especially when multi-disciplinary training and experience is already possessed.

It is in this regard that education and training become very important. The current public policy proposals to provide a free education to all individuals is unrealistic unless this program is linked to some return on investment (ROI; i.e., payback). One way to receive an ROI is to require the trainee to agree to serve an equal amount of time in an assigned underserved community.

For those who will be unemployable because of the very effective use of robotics, automation and IT, it will be necessary to collect tax revenues which are used to provide a guaranteed annual personal income which underwrites the consumer capability (for living essentials…Maslow Hierarchy of Human Needs) of all unemployed individuals. Shareholders must understand that robots will never be paying consumers which are required if the American Consumer economy is to be sustained.

All of the above concerns require work force members to become members of some trade union or professional association. Effective practice of collective bargaining will re-establish an equitable distribution of wealth created by the skilled labor force. The individual worker must become a supporting member of those unions which advocate for (i.e., push back) on behalf of the labor force. The worker who has no membership has no advantage when negotiating a living wage, benefits and retirement plans.

Enjoy your three-day Labor Day Holiday. Resolve to become an involved stakeholder in your future. Recreational activity is part of having a good life.

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