Sunday, August 31, 2008

What to Remember During the Picnic Tomorrow

If you appreciate:

  • an 8-hour work day
  • a 40-hour work week
  • guarantees of a minimum wage
  • paid vacation
  • paid sick time
  • employer-provided health care
  • worker's compensation
  • workplace health and safety rules
  • retirement contributions

Thank a Union.

Because that's what Labor Day is is really all about.

(More after the jump.)

The days when people who worked for an hourly or daily wage were legally treated as slaves, with no limits on how many hours an employer could make them work, or in what horrific conditions, or how little the employer could pay, is within living memory.

That 128 years after the first march for a day honoring workers, Labor Day is marked by picnics and polite parades instead of protest rallies is a tribute to just how much labor unions have accomplished.

But compared to the heyday of unions in the 1950s - which not coincidentally were also the last time one person's full-time salary supported a family in middle-class comfort - there is a great deal of work to be done.

This Labor Day marks yet another year in which the five-decade-old decline of organized labor as a representative of American employees continues almost unabated. The 73-year-old National Labor Relations Act, the principal legal framework for resolving disputes about the forming of unions, is in complete disarray.


... there is a better approach that might occupy bipartisan common ground—an approach for which Obama is well-known, though he hasn't championed it in this way yet.


These reforms would skirt an unnecessary and divisive debate about the secret-ballot election and marshal the support of Congress' center. Obama has pulled off such feats in his career as a community organizer and politician. If he can pull off this one, we might actually achieve the long unrealized objectives of the National Labor Relations Act more than 70 years after its enactment. Better late than never.

And don't forget the millions of people who have to work on Labor Day. When you see them at the grocery store and the gas station and the park, take a few seconds to smile and say thanks.

Cross-posted at Blue in the Bluegrass.