Enjoy this long Labor Day weekend which I often think symbolizes the end of summer. The school year soon resumes for those few young people who still adhere to the traditional scheduling of my youth. Our Claremont Colleges have their students filtering onto the campuses, too.
Here in Southern California our spectacularly large month long Los Angeles County Fair has opened this weekend. The fried specialties booths determined to outdo each other and each previous years epicurean delight (depending on your taste) promises deep-fried Kool-Aid, deep-fried mocha syrup and deep-fried watermelon.
Many exciting acts will be appearing this month, including The Beach Boys, Leann Rimes, and Earth, Wind and Fire. Every night precisely at 10 P.M. I’ll hear the sounds of exploding fireworks as the southwest sky is filled with the sparkling shimmering lights shooting upward, then fading away during their downward trajectory.
Labor Day is an annual celebration that was first observed in 1882 in New York. Twelve years later in 1894 Congress unanimously passed legislation President Grover Cleveland immediately signed into law establishing Labor Day a national holiday. This was a consequence of our government’s reconciliation with the labor movement following several confrontational events, but most significantly workers deaths in a conflict with the U.S. military and U.S. Marshalls.
Tensions between government, business and labor have persisted through the next one hundred and seventeen years to the present. Organized labor’s influence has weakened in later years. Numerous factors have contributed to this situation, including a decrease in manufacturing workers as those jobs have gone to other countries. Also, mechanization with robots has replaced some factory workers.
Recent years the financial debacle impacting the U. S. and other nations has taken a toll on work force numbers. Political ideologies in some state governments has resulted in labor unions being under assault as this fairness balancing act continues between public and private management with worker rights.
Skilled labor traditionally goes to the lowest bidder which has come to be in a country other than the United States. The “knowledge work” associated with the middle class workers is also gradually being exported as described by PeterWilby in The Guardian. We are told that re-education will compensate for these job losses, but that solution’s reality may be debatable Wilby notes.
Consider this, in the United States “the richest 20% own 84% of our nation’s wealth, the second 20% own 11%, and the rest of society own 4%” as graphically shown in a colorful pie chart at “The Chronicle” based on “a recent study by Dan Ariely, James B. Duke professor of behavioral economics…”
If the absence of employment opportunities persists for an increasing majority of U.S. workers, I have great concern that we’re going to have a lot more unrest in this country.
If there was ever a time when organized labor representing public and private skilled and professional workers needed to examine exactly how to best serve those they represent, that time is now. Goals with objectives achieved through strategies of the past may need considerable re-examination and adjustment.
Likewise, government and management need to make similar adaptations in the best interests of our nation. Labor and management may need to work together in ways they may never have considered possible in the past because we live in an entirely different world today.
The preservation of our nation as one that offers all of our citizens the opportunity to join the ranks of a flourishing middle class, even aspiring to greater wealth, should be a fundamental national goal.