Honoring the generators of all wealth

Honoring the generators of all wealth

History tends to be cyclical.  It is true that the more things change the more they stay the same.  Of the issues which confronted the nation’s working people one hundred years ago, many still are relevant despite the many times the World has turned over since.  One hundred years ago the fight for the rights of the American worker was being waged in full.  Labor vs Management was an all out conflict of demanding the rights of working people that often got violent and ugly.  The hard fought battle for the rights of American workers culminated in 1935 with the passage of the pro-union Wagner Act.  It seems that industrial and corporate forces have sought to contain labor ever since.  The struggle of American organized labor however dates back quite further into the industrial revolution era of post-reconstruction.  Observing a day to honor the sacrifices of the American worker dates from 1887 when President Grover Cleveland established the first Monday in September as Labor Day.  Today is when we remember the hard won right to collective bargaining and all the things working people owe the Labor Movement regardless of political ideology.


Historically, we are at a time when most of the above rights are under attack and in jeopardy of being abolished by the forces of corporate greed.  Over the past forty years corporate interests have very successfully demonized labor and its associated interests and have achieved legislation in many states to marginalize labor unions.  The hamstringing of collective bargaining has had a predictable result.


So called “Right to Work” was passed in Oklahoma in 2001 and there was an associated decrease in earnings and benefits in its wake.  Indeed, “Right to Work” did not help Oklahoma’s labor market.  Such was the case in most states with “Right to Work.”  Speaking from my own experience, many mid-level management and health care professionals are also subject to “employ at will” contracts.  That means you can be terminated for any reason or for no reason and until you have been escorted into a conference room and read a termination letter emphasizing the action is “without cause,” you really cannot appreciate such a policy.  All laws along this, the most conservative stretch of Old Route 66, are tilted in favor of corporate and business interests.  The seeming lack of prosperity in the number of “Right to Work” states is as disproportionate as you might think.


In spite of organized labor’s declining numbers, the movement is still alive.  As it turns out so many of the issues addressed so long ago are still at the forefront of discussion and debate.  Pay equality, family leave, vacation, overtime pay, workplace safety and the ever present issue of a living minimum wage among others are all still with us.  Unions have not gone away.  You would be surprised at who all are union members.  It is no surprise that those committed to eradicating unionizing among public sector educators usually have no problem with screen actors and professional athletes that pay union dues.


Labor is the generator of all wealth.  This has been true from the beginning of time.  The moral discussion revolving around collective bargaining, minimum wage and fair employment practices still matter today and remains pertinent as long as jobs get sent overseas all in the name of increasing the corporate bottom line.  Now as then, the interests of the wealthy demand the benefit of everything the free market can offer and the liability of nothing such as anything resembling a social contract.


Today we enjoy a day set aside for the commemoration of the American Labor Movement and what it wrought for all working people.  Let us be mindful of all we owe those who fought hard to bring us the eight hour work day, the forty hour work week, overtime pay, paid vacations, sick time, pension plans, workplace safety, child labor laws and all the other things most employers wish did not exist.


Having had extended family members involved in organized labor and knowing some of the things that went on during strikes and the attempts by industrialists to break them, I shudder at the thought of having to fight those battles again. History is indeed cyclical.  When push comes to shove, when the rubber meets the road, when it comes time to unionize or starve please remember, you only deserve as much abuse as you will tolerate!

American Labor—a journey of Struggle!