Sunday, September 04, 2011


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.


  1. There are no national goals in D. C. now. Only re-election campaigns. The country is doomed.

  2. Lovely, thoughtful piece. I checked out the Wilby article and agree with the point that marketable skills is where it is at. The PBS news hour interviewed two labor economists on Thursday, and the one who made the most sense spoke of structural unemployment.

    When 30 percent of US firms say they can't get the skilled employees they need, something is amiss in our education system.

    On a personal note: When I acquired my MA in Demography, I went to work for the Congress and then left to work for a large corporation. Some of my former classmates thought the Congressional job was glamorous and the latter "selling out."

    I found the latter job to be the best fit for me. I only left it when the government broke up my large corporation (AT&T). I got my jobs because my skills were marketable. I worked with various colleges and universities across the US to take the message to students....the private sector is a great place to work. You are not selling out if you work for a large corporation. Not all corporations are alike. The Corporation, from which I retired (Verizon) is one of the best in the world, and I would work for them again. They have hired numerous young people from overseas in recent years (immigrants to the US, not offshoring). Too bad when a US company has to go oversease to hire people.

  3. I really hate what is happening in this country!

  4. All too often a company "says" it cannot get the skilled labor only so it can get visas for foreign workers to come in at a lower wage rate. It does the required in-USA advertising of a position, once it is held by a visa holder, in obscure trade journals where it ain't likely to be seen by skilled USA citizens. Cab Comp

  5. Excellent post. A lot to think about here. I also fear big troubles in our society if we don't get major course corrections soon. The super-rich seem to forget the lessons of history. When the top dogs refuse to share any of the wealth with the little guys, revolution follows. In a nation well-supplied with personal weapons, this is scary.

  6. Joared--Somehow, not one of the epicurean delights sounds like anything other than what it is - crappola faux food. (Yes, I'm one whose taste buds don't run to deep fried, in general.) I thought that the folks in Southern California were more health-conscious than that. Oh well, I thought that the well-off would understand that their self-interests should cause them to be less greedy and more sharing.
    Cop Car

  7. Joarad: Thoughtful post. You are such a good writer. I like the way you drew my interest in and then got serious.
    Happy Labor Day!

  8. Darlene: Elections may be the primary focus, but I think we need to keep pressing for more attention to actions in our national interest.

    Schmidley: I agree marketable skills are key whether for government or private employment.
    Fortunately some corporations do make an effort to employ U.S. citizens, but many are known to use legal machinations that allow them to do otherwise.

    Kay: Yes, this country is going through tremendous turmoil which is all the more reason why our viewpoints are especially critical. "Times that try mens/[womens] souls" comes to mind.

    CabComp: I've been aware of that activity, too. Often those individuals brought in from outside the country can be paid at a much lower rate than their U.S. counterparts, but the hiring company doesn't charge less for the services provided. The term "windfall profits" comes to mind.

    Gabbygeezer: I hate to even think about that possibility, but there is a limit to what people will tolerate.

    CopCar: I'm with you -- haven't eaten deep fried foods much of my life and not at all for many years. Oops, CC -- don't generalize! Calif. has our share of not-so-health-conscious folk, too. You've been watching too many advt. promos if you think otherwise. I'm constantly amazed with the different food items deep fried each year at the Fair -- and some people eat them. Also amazing is that "some" of the well-off remain so self-centered. Maybe it's a difference in what people think is "enuff."

    Hattie: Glad you appreciated the "light to serious" approach. Now, if I could just convince you my name is "Joa RED" (the 'red' being for my red hair,) not "Joa RAD"........

  9. Joared--Perhaps my data are out of date since I've not lived in southern California since the mid-1980s. I lived in the Bay area in the late 1980s. Actually, as you may recall, I lived in Albuquerque but kept apartments in California while working out there.
    Cop Car

  10. CopCar: Data may show Calif. has a predominate number of people focused on healthy eating. I based my comment on observing supper market shopping cart contents, food being eaten at restaurants and what others talk of eating. I "step over the traces" sometimes, too. (A little early twentieth century phrase my Mom would have used in horse and buggy days.) Guess I missed reading some of your blog posts about living other than where you are presently -- maybe before I started blogging.