Once again we at Here and Sphere celebrate Labor Day. It’s a holiday honoring not just work but labor unions : their successes and their significance. Simply put ; without unions, workers would face conditions that shock the conscience. Child labor, unsafe workplaces, company towns, pittance wages, withheld wages, 70 hour work weeks, early death by industrial disease. Every society with strong labor unions has put paid to these mortal exploitations.
Thus we honor and thank the men and women of organized Labor. Last year we wrote an editorial for Labor Day that still matters much : https://hereandsphere.com/2015/09/06/our-message-for-labor-day/
Labor unions are not perfect. They’re often not great t reform. But today is not the proper time to discuss Labor’s failings. Today is for celebrating its successes :
1.the forty hour work week, with overtime pay for working more hours than 40.
2.safety in the workplace and Federal Laws that mandate it.
3.benefits : paid vacation, sick days, personal days, retirement plans, grievance procedures
4.collective bargaining of wage and work rules
5.the power, collectively, to iunfluence elections and thereby shape public policy for the workplace
6.the Federal NLRB, which oversees union certification elections and also unfair labor practices of many kinds. Also the Norris-LaGuardia Anti-injunction Act.
7.most importantly, wages sufficient to permit workers and their families to participate in the discretionary economy, even to prosper.
Labor people are not only employees. They’re also consumers. By earning strong paychecks, labor’s men and women are able to spend significant money — and they do that, boosting the economy. Today the disconnect between executive pay and employee wages threatens the greater economy. 10,000 workers earning $ 75,000 each can and do spend a lot more into the economy than 100 CEOs earning $ 7,500,000. Most of a seven-figure salary goes to savings. It doesn’t become customer purchases. The opposite is true of a worker’s $ 75,000 yearly income. Nearly all of it gets spent.
When ordinary workers don’t earn enough to be big spenders, the firms whose CEOs want a $ 10 million pay check can’t sell enough stuff to support it. This isn’t rocket science. It’s a fact.
Thank Labor unions for accomplishing all of the above. Service workers and industrial employees should almost always form, unions and work their collective market power. Today we celebrate all of that.
— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere