04 September 2006

Labor Day


What do we celebrate, after all, on Labor Day? 

Grover Cleveland set Labor Day up in the 1880s but placed it at the end of the summer, in September, to keep it far away from May Day, the Communist and labor movement's very European day for honoring The Worker and the hard-won eight-hour work day. That's an easy way to remember the difference between Labor Day and Memorial Day, incidentally: Labor Day can never happen close to May. Anyway, that's how I do it.

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That initial reticence of Cleveland's has now blossomed into a full denial of the value of labor and the worker in twenty-first century America. Unions? A joke. A labor movement? What's that? Worker's compensation? Fair wages? Benefits? Insurance? Vacation time? Job security? In the Age of the Corporation, the pursuit of profit has overshadowed everything else. Companies move production and customer support "offshore" (in every possible way, a repellent term), in the pursuit of ever-higher profits. CEOs make salaries many times over lower-ranking employees for the first time in decades. And who suffers in the pursuit of corporate expansion and profit: always the rank and file worker. Always.

How did this happen? Well, the founding fathers put careful strictures on corporations, keeping them within states and denying them the right to buy and own each other, i.e., other corporations. But one day, the Supreme Court allowed--and not even in an actual decision--that corporations were persons, and therefore were granted the right of freedom of speech, ownership, etc. The 1950s, and 60s, especially, marked a backlash against earlier corporate exploitation and indulgence, but with Reagan and deregulation, the backlash against the backlash has increased exponentially. Under the current occupant of the White House it has only gotten worse, as if you needed informing of that with the many scandals of corporate interests and the lobbyists who serve them. Your government serves corporations, not you. Your government does not care about you, your health, your livelihood, your job, your wages, your ability to feed your family, or your safety (remember the mine workers killed recently, none of the many violations reported were investigated. If those violations had been acted upon, those men would be alive today. This is just an FYI.).

But always remember, even if Labor Day is a joke, always remember that your labor has value. Even as you toil in a salaried job for more than the eight-hour work day that was guaranteed over a century ago, I hope your labor has some value to you.

Hey, let's repeal the child labor laws, too!

But don't worry, be happy. There's always a silver lining in every dark cloud. Truest of the dreams is The American Dream. Trust in The American Dream, in a country where anyone can become President. Remember that we live in a society unburdened by class. Trust that progress is the driving engine of our time and that your representatives have your best interests in mind. Don't forget that when God closes a door, he always opens a window. In spite of everything, still believe that people are good at heart. And always remember that murder will out.


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Paul Hanstedt said...

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Paul Hanstedt