Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day 2006: Read, Think, Celebrate, Relax and Reenergize

I've been trying to think about what I should write about Labor Day this year, the plight of working people, and the fate of unions. There have been a lot of long, wordy, thoughtful articles on the state of labor and the state of unions lately in newspapers and in blogs, so I've decided not to add to it.

I'll just stick with the one bumper sticker always says it best for me:
Unions: The Folks That Brought You The Weekend
That one phrase seems to encapsulate the history of labor in this country -- the fact that only out of struggle have we gained all of those privileges and pleasures that almost everyone takes for granted.

And then there's what happens when the folks that brought you the weekend aren't around anymore, at least with the strength they used to have. That was displayed in this small paragraph in the Wall St. Journal the other day:

LONG WEEKEND? Census says 23% of private-sector employees don't get paid holidays, and only 48% of those in service sector do. Some 7.5 million hold more than one job, and roughly 8% work more than 60 hours a week.

Huh? A quarter of working Americans get no paid holidays? More than half of those in the service sector get no paid holidays?

Now, of course, I have no doubt that the Richard Bermans and Peter Lists of the world are wondering how we get to those lazy bastards that still manage to have paid holidays, but those of us who have evolved beyond nostalgia for feudalism may want to spend today reflecting upon where we've been, where we are, and how to get to where we want to go.

To begin that journey, you might want to head on over to the AFL-CIO Today which has all kinds of good labor day stuff, including a historical posts by Tula Connel on The Face of Child Labor, an article on the history of Labor Day (Labor Day—A Poor Cousin to May Day?), and Eight Hours for What We Will!, the history of the struggle for an 8-hour work day.

And when you're done with the past, but viewing the present and future with some trepidation, take a trip over to Nathan Newman's blog which has "a celebration not of the justice of the labor cause, but of the brilliance of those fighting and often winning against long odds in the modern economy. "

Then David Sirota chimes in with an op-ed on The Republican War On Workers where he accurately points out that
Republicans understand that if they destroy organized labor, they will destroy one of the last remaining institutions that fights for the economic interests of workers. If that happens, the GOP’s corporate donors will be even better able to have their way in the political arena. In other words, they understand that destroying labor would result in the completion of the hostile takeover of our government by Big Money interests.
And in case you're wondering what the problem is, Kevin Drum points us to a Detroit Free Press map showing, by state, how far median incomes have dropped over the past six years. And, as usual, RawblogXport manages to collect all the good Labor Day articles that everyone else has missed, while Workers Comp Insider collects sites with tributes to labor.

Then take a look at Workplace Prof blog, which is "hosting the 73rd edition of the esteemed Blawg Review for Labor Day 2006. It's Labor Day "from a distinctly legal perspective." And The Sideshow has some more goodies.

Finally, don't forget the AFL-CIO's Labor Day Quiz on their Labor Day 2006 website.

Have a good one.