Labor Day – What’s it all about?
Labor Day was designated a national holiday in 1894 to celebrate the contributions of the workforce to society, and to the economy. But being a worker in the US has meant very different things at different time periods.
To my Mother, a single Mom of two, a “job” was just about the most important thing there was. It was the way she fed us, clothed us and as she would often say “keep a roof over our heads”.
It would be pretty safe to say she held the almighty job right up there with her country and her church. It was a responsibility, an obligation and damn important to her and to us.
For Mom, Labor Day was not a holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers like herself. It was just one less day to be working.
My younger brother and I started work as soon as we could. It became quickly apparent we were not going to be sticking with one company for 10, 20 or 30 plus years.
In our chosen professions during the 70s and 80s, we discovered the more varied our work experience, the more value we had as employees and as future hires.
Plus companies were changing the rules. Pension plans were a thing of the past. Health care costs were being shifted to the employees and away from the cost of doing business. Workers were viewed as costs, not as contributors. The offices of CEOs and Presidents moved higher in the sky.
The evolution of the ‘job’ continues to shift, morph and mutate. See the infographic below.
Today, I feel as if the term ‘jobs’ has become, in some twisted sense, a new four letter derogatory word. It is the promised carrot, a bribe in a black envelope that large companies hold out to Governors and Mayors around the country.
We’ll bring you jobs if you (a.k.a. taxpayers) build us a factory, relieve us of paying taxes, give us land, etc., etc.
We might stay for a few years, or we might have to leave because we’ll find a cheaper place to make our products. But in the meantime, you’ll have more jobs than you do now.
It’s that a great deal or what?
While the management of underemployed states and cities turn themselves into pretzels to get these bribes, these empty promises rob the communities of the needed resources for roads, schools, safety, health care, etc.
My personal belief is if it makes sense for a corporation to open a plant in an area where it is less expensive, let them build the plants, let them buy the land and let them pay their fair share of taxes.
Bottom line: Let the management and those who invest in these companies accept the the risks associated with making a business decision and not pass these risks off onto communities and its residents.
But companies aren’t the only ones currently using the promise of jobs to get something for nothing. It seems to be the new slogan for many politicians.
Vote for me and I’ll get you jobs.
Of course, few, if any, of these politicians know how to create jobs. They only know how to make handshake deals in return for empty carrots.
At the end of the day, the promise of “jobs” takes on all of the trappings of a handshake with the devil.
What’s my solution? I don’t really have one. But if I did…I’d try to put some dignity back into the word.
I’d like for all of us to make or have a job that is a thing of beauty…self-made, self-sustained and self-infused and not a cheap bargaining chip in some backroom deal.
On this Labor Day, we could show a person who holds down a job a sense of gratitude. Without him or her, many businesses, governments, institutions wouldn’t be able to function. Perhaps we should recognize this fact.
Maybe we could treat workers the respect typically reserved for stockholders or dignitaries.
On this Labor Day, let’s not only celebrate the contributions of the worker. Let’s also work to redefine the word “jobs” and well…let’s redefine it to mean more…much more.
What do you think? What are your ideas?
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