Monday, September 03, 2012

My salute to Labor Day

Every year, as Summer approaches, we are reminded that Memorial Day is meant as a way to thank the troops that have died protecting our freedoms from outside encroachment.  But the powers-that-be, particularly on the right, would prefer to pretend that Labor Day, the holiday that book-ends the summer on the opposite side, either doesn't exist or doesn't mean what it does.

Troops aren't the only ones who've died for our freedoms.  You like the weekend?  Thank Labor.  You like a forty hour work week?  Thank Labor.  Overtime?  Labor again.  People DIED for these things.  That's what people seem to miss about the whole thing.  They didn't give us these things out of the goodness of their hearts.  People fought and died to give us these ubiquitous freedoms.

Oh, to us they may seem like freedoms, but to the owners they're the next thing to unconstitutional and immoral.  They feel as though these things take away from their ability to manage their business, and to hire people willing to do anything to earn a few scraps of bread and broth for soup.  You hear the right wing echo these sentiments on a regular basis.

Just today Eric Cantor used the opportunity to recognize the contributions of managers and business owners, not the people who actually do the work.  Let me clue you in on something, Cantor.  No managers died to give us forty hour work weeks.  No steel magnates stood on the front lines and fought to make sure we got overtime, and a chance to spend time with our families.

For a party that proclaims "family values" at the top of their lungs, the Republicans sure don't seem to do anything to actually support families.  They'll help arrange things so you need to have two jobs just to survive, then talk down to you because you're "not there for your children" when they do something wrong.

What a crock.

So, as the corporate media insists on missing the point, and as most people go about their day with no awareness of what this holiday is actually memorializing, I'd just like to take a moment to thank these forgotten heroes.

I take every break to which I'm entitled.  People died for that break.  If I work overtime, I insist on payment for that overtime.  People died for that overtime.  When I take my vacation (short as it is compared to every other industrialized nation on Earth) I thank those people who fought to make it a reality.

You know why, in the end, they were forced to pass all this legislation to protect the worker?  Because they were afraid that if they didn't the Communists really would get a toehold in America.  Because beaten, worn down workers are a sure source of resentment.

Don't let your HD color TV convince you that the fight is over.  The fact that you can go home after a day's labor and fall into a chair in front of the television to be transported worlds away doesn't mean you're home free.  Quite the opposite.  If you fail to realize what labor has done for you and your children--consider that they're allowed to go to school rather than forced to work in a factory for sixteen hours a day--you are betraying sacrifices made on your behalf.  In a way it's like pissing on a military emblem.  Except we've been taught in this country to idolize the military and discount and disparage labor.

Don't.  Just don't.  If you're injured at work, you are entitled to compensation.  Why?  Because someone fought to give you that.  If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you're entitled to unemployment insurance.  Don't think for a second that this isn't important.  It's probably kept more families solvent than just about anything else we've ever done as a country.

If you honor the soldiers that died in the service of this country and ignore those who died in service to their fellow Americans, you just might be missing the point.

I'm not.

1 comment:

Kesha said...

Thank you for a well thought out blog entry. Thanks to ALL who fought for our rights as workers. They are the reason we have 40 hour weeks, paid overtime, workers compensation for injury sustained on the job, vacation pay, holiday pay ... the list is endless. Hug a Union Worker Today!