It's Labor Day, 2014.. and what significance does the day have in the modern era?
When I was a young boy, the Labor Force in this country was making great strides, thanks to the policies of our government, and thanks to organized labor. I'm not talking about the corrupt people within organized labor.. I'm talking about the actual strides that unions made to improve the life of, not only their members, but all workers. Wages increased.. we had healthcare offered.. retirement programs... improved working conditions.
These were all backed by politicians like Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and yes, even Nixon.. who gave us OSHA. I remember the Golden Days well. We all gathered together to celebrate how great America was for the working man. Every gain trickled down to every worker.
I remember, after I joined the great labor force of the '70s and '80s, proud Labor Day parades and celebrations. We were celebrating America's respect for the workers in the country. We were all proud to be Americans, and happy to be included in the great American Dream. We were celebrated throughout the country as the workforce that could do anything.
Somehow, in the late '80s, and again in the late '90s, we lost our edge. We had our politicians, who were supposed to protect us and keep the American worker strong, suddenly give in to the multinational corporations, and aid in their quest to send our manufacturing jobs overseas. This was called the great shift to a global economy. This was called 'Fair Trade', when, in fact, it was the death knell to fair wages for the American worker. I must tell you.. we are not alone in this tragedy. The same theme is echoed in all the economies across the globe that were once thriving. Australia, The United Kingdom... any economy that depended on keeping their citizens at work in manufacturing, are now suffering because these multinationals have sent their jobs to countries that pay mere pennies to their workers, if they pay them at all! How can we compete against countries that use child labor, or slave labor, to produce goods? How can we compete against countries that have no regard for human life, and do not care about providing their people with a living wage? We cannot!
These multinationals do not care about the human beings that power their companies. They do not care if they make a living wage, or if they have healthcare, or if they live or die. Their attitude is that, if a worker dies, they will be replaced by some other poor person who is struggling to feed their families, perhaps at a cheaper wage.
It saddens me.. and old Unionist who fought for better wages and healthcare for not only those that he or she represented, but those who also got the benefits from the struggles of our unions. It saddens me because my grandchildren will have to face a labor market that has no regard for them. It makes me afraid for their futures.
Those of you who celebrate the gains of these corporations and think that you and yours will benefit from them will have a rude awakening one day; and I think that this day will be sooner, rather than later. I can only hope that, someday in the near future, Labor Day will again be to celebrate the Great American Worker. I can only hope that I will live long enough to see that day.
In the meantime, I wish all of those who work to make this a great world, Love and Peace.
John Zaffino, Kent Lakes New York
September 1, 2014