Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

In the 19th Century the world was emerging from something much like the Dark Ages, and laboring people were only beginning to emerge from an awful period in history.  Child labor, unsafe working conditions and persecution of working folks who dared to unite to try to improve their lot still existed.  In the late 1800's organized labor was only beginning to bring about better working conditions for people who earned a living by the sweat of their brow.

The first Labor Day Parade and celebration recorded in history took place in New York City on September 5,1882.  It was led by a hard-nosed, Irish labor leader of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, Peter J. McGuire.  Celebration was held honoring the creation of the labor movement in New York and dedicated to the socioeconomic achievements of American workers.  Although the holders of the early and great fortunes of the United States contributed to the booming prosperity of America, the real backbone which gave strength to America’s well being was the American worker. 

Labor pioneers such as EugeneDebs--a leader once jailed for his labor activities, Samuel Gompers, John L.Lewis, Cesar Chavez and Philip Randolph led the fight to bring justice and respect for American labor.  They fought against sweat shops, unsafe and filthy working conditions, and for living wages. 

As we honor people who contribute to our nation’s welfare through their labor and toil, we should guard against erosion of the respect for labor.  We should not celebrate the decline of labor unions, which appears to coincide with the serious erosion of a middle class in America.

Politically, in America, the respect for hard work and labor does not appear to match the rhetoric of many politicians today.  Congress refuses to act on a minimum wage bill while our Supreme Court unleashes unlimited moves in our electoral process.  Our state Legislature ignores the fact that Texas leads the nation in worker deaths, while our governor boasts of little or no safety regulations in industry.  Texas continues to refuse to require that employers provide workers’ compensation for those injured on the job. 

While admittedly the middle class is drastically shrinking in our nation, we seem to ignore the fact that America is the most unequal of all advanced nations as to wealth.  As reported in the Huffington Post,December 2013, 75% or 3/4ths of all of the wealth in America is owned by 10% of our population.  The greatest amount of accumulated wealth is not the result of hard work.  The amount of earnings in America is down 7% since 1989 as a percentage of earned wealth in America.  

Our state of Texas ranks among the worst states in the Union in income inequality according to an NBC study.  Tax on wages earned through labor are higher than the tax earned on income from stocks, bonds, or the sale of property.  We continue to grant generous deductions for using up oil and gas wells through a depletion allowance, but pay little attention to workers whose bodies are used up producing goods and services for the American economy.

The truest and best way to honor laboring America today is to demand from our politicians that attention be paid to the growing disparity of wealth in our country.  We should support those who favor living wages, support laws demanding safety at the workplace, and support those who share the belief that a strong working middle class holds the best hope for a strong and prosperous America. 

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