In case you’ve not been watching mattress commercials on television or similar advertisements in newspapers, you probably did not notice we are supposed to be celebrating Labor Day. And as is his habit, the narcissist-in-chief spent the morning patting himself on the back for not screwing up the economy in his first two years in office. Though he is certainly making a valiant effort recently with non-existent trade deals and tariffs. He followed this ego trip with a round of golf at his his Virginia resort (and I use HIS reluctantly since there is a good chance the majority owner is Deutsche Bank or the Kremlin). I am so glad he cancelled his Poland trip to stay in the White House and monitor the situation associated with Hurricane Dorian. Better to embarrass himself in the USA than in front of a worldwide audience.
But that’s not what I came here to talk about. As we pay tribute to American workers let’s make sure we give credit where credit is due. For far too many years Republicans and conservative economists have questioned the value of the social safety net by pointing out some beneficiaries abuse the system. The targets of these accusations are called “welfare queens.” According to Wikipedia, “‘Welfare queen’ is a derogatory term used in the United States to refer to women who allegedly misuse or collect excessive welfare payments through fraud.”
However, individuals on public assistance are not the only ones with a safety net. The overwhelming majority of workers in America today are the beneficiaries of:
- better wages,
- reasonable hours
- safer working conditions
- health benefits
- retirement programs
- unemployment payments, and
- aid if injured on the job.
EVERY single one of these worker gains were introduced and fought for by dues paying members of unions and labor organizers.
Yet more and more states are authorizing open shops (places of employment where workers are not required to join a union) and fewer workers are contributing to the cause for even better working conditions, higher pay and corporate accountability. I ask you, do non-union workers getting the above perks sound like a class of individuals who are collecting payments and in-kind benefits through fraud? I have yet to hear one corporate executive or open shop employee give credit to the likes of Samuel Gompers and other giants of the labor movement.
I am not quite sure when “union” became such a dirty word but it seems to coincide with economic downturns. Organized workers often are portrayed as the reason American business cannot compete in a global marketplace. If that were true, the decline of unions should have resulted in a massive increase in U.S. manufacturing. Or the wages and benefits in non-union firms would be significantly lower than their organized counterparts. But neither is the case. So now the excuses de jour are health and safety regulations and immigrants.
So, this Labor Day, take a moment and thank the union workers and organizers who are responsible for many of the workplace advantages so many non-union workers take for granted. And if you see one of these union queens driving the BMW or Mercedes Benz they built in an open shop, refrain from confronting them with the fact they are living off the teat of hard-working, dues paying union members. Even though it is the truth.
For what it’s worth.