A Labor Day Reflection
Labor Day 2008 has me thinking about other meanings of that word, "labor." As my first little one is due to arrive later this month, "labor and delivery" come to mind most readily. Even now though, my own preoccupation has not completely replaced the significance of Labor Day : a time to honor the American workforce.
In this milestone election year, will our elected leaders choose to honor or merely consume American labor?
Regardless of who gets elected president, the country has laws in place protecting even non-unionized American workers from abusive practices, unlike in so many developing countries and even some bigger ones, like China. Since when, though, should workers compare themselves to their communist counterparts? By necessity, a changing economy has altered the way we view the workplace, and thus, career success.
We used to have a fairly predictable model to being successful. Get good grades. Go to college. Get a job with decent benefits and livable wages. But this formula has steadily broken down over several generations. Getting a college education no longer functions as the final step before entering the workplace. Some people, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, the founders of Apple and Microsoft computers, deconstruct the traditional formula even further by skipping college altogether and creating their own circuitous path (no pun intended) to financial independence.
Are modern politicians still functioning within the outdated model of building a stronger workforce?
Add to the higher education equation whether open borders for trade, à là NAFTA , have ultimately helped or hurt the U.S. worker. The arguments are well known, especially during an election year. By making cheap overseas products available to buy and sell, American workers face buying competitors' goods. The problem is we're shipping goods from countries still struggling with the definitions of basic human rights. The protections most workers take for granted - a lunch break and "clocking out" after eight hours or so -- are pie-in-the-sky ideals in factories around the globe, including those in China, our primary supplier of goods.
I'm looking for an elected leader who will balance advancing the American worker with accommodating the American consumer.
Lastly, the immigration debate has divided both Democrats and Republicans alike on the matter of labor. Democrats who favor unionizing workplaces strongly oppose illegal employment practices. Republicans who favor tightened border security and freeing precious municipal resources oppose illegal hiring, even if it does help the economy supply cheaper goods and services. Either way, many American workers question whether the value of his or her labor must be cheapened in order to compete with the market forces of underground trade.
The next president will have to address complex issues of the global economy and how to reinforce the infrastructure of American labor. Although statistics conflict as to whether we're in a recession or not, most households now feel the pinch of shrinking profits, reprioritizing budgets, and working longer hours. Maybe Labor Day 2009 will be greeted with pride instead of complete exhaustion.
Daniel J. Smiechowski from San Diego
September 02, 2008 at 10:55 PM
Regarding the revelations of Vice-Presidential Nominee Sara Palin's seventeen year old daughter as being five months pregnant in being possible political fodder for the Democrats: As a liberal democratic voter and elected member of San Diego County's Democratic Central Committee, I say, lay off the little girl and her mother. Don't you remember Senator Eagleton? Daniel J. Smiechowski---3965 Paducah Drive San Diego, Ca 92117-5319 Home Phone--858-272-1992 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
September 03, 2008 at 02:06 AM
Take it easy Daniel J. Smiechowski - you sound a bit too forbidding. Didnt see a mention of Palin here. You sound like a shock troop sticking to talking points. Thanks for the personal info - probably wont need it. Alma - my sister just had twins - good luck with your labor oflove. We need all of the good, kind, and open Americans we can get. Chris
September 04, 2008 at 07:07 PM
I enjoyed this post, Alma. I thought you made some really excellent (and thought-provoking) points. You are right in exposing some of these issues as very complex, as I can, for example, see both sides of the immigration debate. We certainly need a president who will care not only about the status of the economy, but also about the needs and concerns of individual workers. Nice commentary!