Labor Day Reflections 2012

Labor Day 

New York City, circa 1882

Not a shopping event or sale in sight … just working people gathering in solidarity and strutting their stuff.

I was on the National Mall in Washington DC one beautiful Labor Day years ago.  As I walked up from the metro station and emerged into the sunlight, I heard a growing murmur of voices.  The labor groups were gathering, many with distinctive and bright colors marking their identity.  

The air was abuzz with the sounds of people gathered together and becoming part of a much larger whole.   Electricians, plumbers, craftsmen, mechanics, nurses, firefighters, police officers, construction workers, sanitation workers … the variety of work seemed endless.

The effect of seeing all these folks in this national gathering place was electrifying …

I had always thought of myself as part of the professional class, even though my father was a farmer.  On that Labor Day, I experienced just a taste of the power that comes from unity and the pride generated from honest, hard work.

Does this mean that all blue collar workers are automatically just good guys?  Nope, it’s not that simple …

I do think we may have strayed a little too far from a common respect for those who work hard, often in obscurity, to provide the things which make our economy go and our country grow.

Times are tough and people are looking for someone to blame.   The labor movement, and unions in particular, come in for at least their fair share of that blame, mostly due to unrealistic demands for increasing wages and higher benefits, especially as related to retirement.  

On the other hand, many now benefit from safe and relatively equitable workplaces, due to those same efforts.

As usual, nothing is completely positive or negative.   Let’s just value the positive contributions of American workers and think about how we can help restore a measure of respect and recognition for an honest day’s work.

Thinking about those who do the hard, dirty jobs in the Heartland ….