For many in our readership, today marks the midway point of a three-day weekend. If you’re fortunate enough to be in that group, enjoy.
If you’re not, perhaps you can find solace in the fact Labor Day just doesn’t have the significance it once did.
Labor Day doesn’t even honor the traditions of the past that celebrated the social and economic achievements of American workers. The day first was observed in 1882 as the result of a labor union in New York City. The notion spread through other unions and picked up steam. While laborers might not have benefitted from all the fruits of their labor, it was well-recognized this country was strong and prosperous because of them.
Nowadays unions are at historically low participation levels, and many states are doing their best to crush what’s left of organized labor. Public sector employees have been described as burdens here in Kansas. Contracts negotiated long ago regarding pensions and retirement plans are getting in the way of state governments intent on downsizing and privatizing all they can.
In the first outline detailing what Labor Day should be, it suggested a “street parade to exhibit to the public ‘the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations’ of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families.”
When was the last time you took part in one of those community events? Most of us never have. What would be the point?
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the recovery from the Great Recession remains incomplete. Corporate profits have returned and those with sizable stock portfolios have recouped their losses — but average workers remain mired where they’ve been for decades. The recovery has increased significantly the gap between rich and poor both in terms of wealth and wages.
Unemployment and underemployment acutely is affecting minority populations, the young, and the less educated. While CEO’s continue to make more than 300 times their average worker, 70 percent of the U.S. workforce has experienced wage declines since 2002 when adjusted for inflation. Throw in cuts to benefits, and it is hard to see cause for celebration.
Still, Americans are a resilient lot. We work hard — and we play hard. Unless we’re at the very bottom, we consider ourselves fortunate to even have a job.
So the notion of a three-day holiday weekend might just be worth celebrating. After all, we haven’t had one since the beginning of July.
Perhaps it is time to reconsider this particular holiday’s name, however. Labor is a variable expense at most companies and in most state economies. To claim we’re honoring labor smacks of hypocrisy when examining the current state of affairs.
Still, it’s what we’re calling this Monday. Happy Labor Day to you!
Editorial by Patrick Lowry
Patrick Lowry is editor and publisher of The Hays Daily News.?