Why Labor Day Matters
Why Labor Day Matters
By Ralph Nader / commondreams.org

Here’s an experiment to try this holiday weekend. Quiz your friends, family and acquaintances on the meaning of Labor Day. You might be surprised by the answers you hear. To many, the true meaning of Labor Day has been unfortunately lost―it’s merely a three-day vacation weekend, unless you work in retail, in which case it is, ironically, a day of work and “special” sales.

Commercialists have transformed Labor Day into a reason for shopping. The fact that Labor Day was conceived as an occasion dedicated to America’s workers and what they have endured is sadly under-acknowledged and unappreciated. (In many other countries, the event is known as “International Workers’ Day” and is celebrated on May 1st.)

Labor Day is a time to celebrate America’s tradespeople―the plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters, tailors, retail clerks and home health assistants. Celebrate the meat and poultry inspectors, building code inspectors, OSHA and Customs inspectors, sanitation inspectors of supermarkets and restaurants, nuclear, chemical and aircraft inspectors, inspectors of laboratories, hospitals and clinics. Celebrate the bus drivers, miners, and nurses. Celebrate the janitors who often thanklessly clean our office buildings, schools, airports, and more. The list goes on.

In addition, Labor Day should be used to reflect on the historic victories of American workers such as establishing the minimum wage and overtime pay, the five-day work week and banning of the use of child labor. Many in the U.S. would find it difficult to imagine living in a country where these things weren’t a given.

Labor Day is also a time to promote the future of labor and push our elected officials on the critical needs of workers, such as improved health and safety measures and increased economic benefits for tens of millions in need. It is a time to discuss repealing The Taft Hartley Act of 1947―one of the great blows to American democracy―which makes it exceptionally difficult for employees to organize unions. Taft-Hartley impeded employees’ right to join together in labor unions, undermined the power of unions to represent workers’ interests effectively, and authorized many anti-union activities by employers. Unions should no longer concede this usurpation of worker rights. Workers should use Labor Day as a yearly opportunity to push the repeal of Taft-Hartley.

Labor Day is a time to acknowledge how big U.S. corporations have shown a lack of patriotism by abandoning American workers and shipping jobs to communist and fascist regimes abroad. These countries often pay serf-level salaries and abuse their workers with dangerous working conditions―these are the conditions that the labor movement in the United States fought against and made substantial gains.

Perhaps the best example of how apathy has affected the hard fought victories of the labor movement is how the federal minimum wage has languished. The gap between worker and CEO compensation ever widens, even as worker productivity rises. According to the Economic Policy Institute: “The CEO-to-worker compensation ratio was 20-to-1 in 1965 and 29.9-to-1 in 1978, grew to 122.6-to-1 in 1995, peaked at 383.4-to-1 in 2000, and was 295.9-to-1 in 2013…”

Since 1968, the minimum wage has lost over one-third of its purchasing power. If it had kept up with inflation, it would be $10.93 an hour today. Raising the minimum wage to $15 would give a pay raise to over fifty-one million Americans.

Where are the presidential candidates on this vital matter? Democrats Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have come out in favor of a $15 minimum wage, with Sanders introducing the Pay Workers a Living Wage Act last July, which would raise the wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Hillary Clinton belatedly supports raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour and gave a tepid endorsement to fast food workers fighting for $15.

On the Republican side, only Rick Santorum, Ben Carson and John Kasich have come out in favor of raising the minimum wage, but none favor raising it to a livable amount.

What many fail to understand is that the minimum wage has served as a way to improve the lives of many and their families. A 2013 study by the Center for American Progress showed that even raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollees by 6 percent, saving taxpayers $46 billion over the next decade.

Where is the passion for elevating the wellbeing of American workers? Where are the advocates for American workers? Advocates and prominent labor leaders should be front and center on the Sunday political shows just before Labor Day discussing matters like the minimum wage, income equality, job safety, pull-down trade treaties and more. Labor unions such as the AFL-CIO should host events around the country to highlight worker issues like the oppressive Taft-Hartley Act and boost the morale of hard-working people who are unrecognized and hastily slipping behind in a casino capitalism culture.

Labor Day is the time to speak out, march in Labor Day parades, and push for long-overdue action. It’s a moment for the nation to shine a light upon the rights and plights of the nation’s workers and recognize the need to strengthen labor laws. Let us gather, contemplate and celebrate a more just treatment of all those who toil.

See TimeForARaise.org for more information

3.5 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 15,301 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 10,355 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
10 Stunning Images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award
Natural History Museum · 9,044 views today · These incredible images are a selection from of the 25 shortlisted by The Natural History Museum for the People's Choice Award from this year's Wildlife Photographer of the...
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 8,178 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
Van Jones: Only a 'Love Army' Will Conquer Trump
Tim Dickinson · 5,752 views today · Though it's important to fight Trump's policies, "it's at the values level that we need to do a reset," says Jones
Seven Must-Have Skills for the 21st Century
Tommy Lehe · 2,897 views today · We live in a world that moves faster than we do. Trying to keep up can be an overwhelming task that at times feels hopeless, like we are falling further and further behind—but...
A New History for Humanity - the Human Era
8 min · 1,832 views today · It is time to reframe how we think about our past. We need a new year 0 for humanity. But which one should we choose and why?
David Graeber: We Need a Revolution in the Way We Think about "Work"
4 min · 1,735 views today · David Graeber on the Value of Work. Does the world really need neuroadvertisers, PR researchers and branding consultants? Renowned academic and coiner of the ‘we are the 99%’...
Forget Air Force One, Pentagon Wastes Billions and Billions Every Month
Nadia Prupis · 1,645 views today · President-elect Donald Trump's focus on single Boeing contract ignores enormous waste of bloated Pentagon budget
Trump: The Illusion of Change
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 1,436 views today · “Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.” — Wendell Berry
The Most Powerful Algorithm in the World
Joe Brewer · 1,288 views today · After the insanity of the U.S. election, a lot of people are blaming Facebook for its algorithms that parse us into ideological bubbles and spread “fake news” and other kinds...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,177 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
How to Expose Trump's Dastardly Bait-And-Switch
Robert Borosage · 1,173 views today · Trump is not an economic populist, he’s just playing one on TV.
Asylum-Seeker Faces a Dangerous Deportation Back to Afghanistan
3 min · 1,134 views today · After an EU deal with Afghanistan, more than 80,000 rejected Afghan asylum-seekers are facing deportation back to that country. Alim says being sent back to Afghanistan could...
15 Easy Things You Can Do to Help When You Feel Like Shit
Maritsa Patrinos · 1,087 views today · You don’t have to tackle it all at once.
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,048 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Problem with Hating Our Enemies
Charles Eisenstein · 968 views today · He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if thou gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee. —Nietzsche
Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance... on MSNBC!
4 min · 933 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
It's The Damn Police
Walter Fields · 871 views today · From an early age Blacks are socialized to live defensively and to absorb the mental body blows that come from the day-to-day indignities that are hoisted upon us by the very...
Amanda Abbington Introduces iAnimal - 42 Days in the Life of Chickens
4 min · 677 views today · Shot undercover in British factory farms and slaughterhouses, this immersive 360° video gives you a birds-eye view of what happens to chicken from farm to plate.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Why Labor Day Matters