Today (September 2) is Labor Day in the United States. The holiday honors the contributions of American workers. To be honest when I was a child, it was a holiday I always dreaded.
Labor Day meant it was time to go back to school. As a student (and later as a teacher) it marked the end summer and time to go back to work. It was not until later I appreciated the link between the holiday and the labor movement.
Now, as I work with unions and management, the holiday takes on greater significance. The pressures placed on the labor movement threaten to crumble the gains made by workers during the last century.
The median wage for American workers has fallen in the last few years. Yet we are told unions are no longer necessary.
Productivity in the U.S. has increased 108.1% since 1968, yet we are told American workers are lazy.
Executive compensation is rising at record rates, yet we are told there is no reason to raise the minimum wage.
Corporate profits and cash reserves continue to grow, yet we are told it is proper to keep wages on new jobs as low as possible.
Half of the workers holding minimum wage jobs ($7.25 per hour) are over age 25, yet we are told these jobs are only held by young people as temporary jobs.
Hostess executives received huge pay raises while receiving concessions from the unions, yet we are told the failure of the company is the fault of the union.
In 2010, over 16% of the population did not have health care, yet we are told health care reform is unnecessary. If you are waiting for corporate leaders to provide better care, it will never happen. At least they will not do so on their own.
It seems that most of those who claim unions are no longer necessary are those that would benefit from the demise of unions or those who do not have the benefits provided by unions.
I like to see corporations doing well and enjoying good profits. Good leaders for these companies deserve to be well compensated for their work. No employer can survive without good, effective leadership. There must, however, be a balance.
We hope the leadership will remember the benefits of employee engagement to get the best from their company.
I hope you will enjoy your holiday. As you do, remember the continuing importance of the labor movement today. After all, if it were not for the labor movement, you would not have the day off.