Monday, September 6, 2010

May Day in September

Today is "Labor Day" in the United States, a day that is supposed to commemorate the Workers of our fair land. Most countries do this on May 1. The May 1 holiday was declared in 1891 by international labor organizations in remembrance, ironically, of the Chicago Haymarket Riots of 1886, in which workers demonstrated for among other things the eight-hour day. President Cleveland thought that having Labor Day on that day might promote further worker unrest, so he set it for the first Monday in September.

Anyway, history aside, it is deeply ironic that we even have a "Labor Day," since we are, arguably, the country of the world that least values or respects labor. A couple of points that should make you cranky:
  • In the US, the average CEO of a major corporation "earns" in one day what the average worker earns in a year.
  • Last year, the CEO of my health insurance klepto- corporation "earned" my annual salary every hour.
  • Exact figures vary, but it's safe to say that roughly 10% of the US population controls at least 80% of the nation's wealth, while the other 90% of the population shares about 20% of the total wealth.
  • Many workers who have a full-time (40 hours a week) job, and many who work at more than one job, are still around or below the poverty line and cannot afford to live in a house or apartment.
  • Increasingly, even workers who have a full-time job do not have health care and cannot afford to help their children attend colleges and universities.
  • Workers who attempt to unionize in the US are frequently prevented from doing so, a violation of Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Until we have at least a federally mandated living minimum wage and unhindered access to unions, I do not think that we can say that we "value" or "respect" labor.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments and feedback are welcome, as long as they conform to normal standards of civility and decency. I will delete comments that do not meet these standards.