Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy Worker's Day

The summer is about to be officially over (not that you could tell from the temperatures in Kansas City).  Swimming pools will soon be closing however, most of the kids are already back at school (and the rest soon will be), and along with the rest of the nation I find that I am more than ready for a three-day weekend to let off a little steam.

In my own case, it might have something to do with having begun my week by traveling last Sunday and having labored a considerable (and perhaps inordinate) number of hours training for my chosen profession.  The fact that such efforts may well be in vain (something to do with old dogs and new tricks that I seem unable to recall in my depleted physical and mental condition) has nothing to do with the honest effort expended by such exertion.  I find however that my well-deserved bit of rest has been ruined by by the holiday that in title at least celebrates such efforts, Labor Day.  

For it seems as though the extended weekend we get away from our jobs cannot even manage to rise to the level of carrying the stigma of being a Hallmark Holiday.  We cannot even happily revel in rampant consumerism, safe in the knowledge that the increasing credit card debt we saddle ourselves with will put money back into the economy in more direct way than the food stamps or unemployment benefits that the government apparently prefers.  Instead, we will have to grudgingly accept that whatever merrymaking we choose to participate in will in fact celebrate the labor movement in this country.  

Don't get me wrong, there was a time in this country when such a movement was perhaps necessary.  People often worked too many hours and in conditions that would be considered unsafe by any standards today; but unlike the long weekend that I at least need, that time has long passed.  Legislators and government regulators have long since stepped in to insure that citizens are protected, producing as many positives as negatives in their often misguided efforts to correct past ills.  Even without organized labor as a force in this country, it hardly seems possible that evil corporations could have their evil way with their workforce ... even in Right to Work States.

The impetus for the festivities this weekend therefore, is little more to me than a reminder that another President (Grover Cleveland) once attempted to placate organized labor with a national holiday after using government troops during a strike back in 1894.  And since the current Administration seems to use its bureaucratic thugs on employers rather than employees, the holiday seems more like a hollow remnant that does little more than highlight the sorry state of jobs in this country.  

The numbers have only gotten worse since I wrote about this back in January of 2010, with employment (or more accurately unemployment) still the largest problem that this nation faces.  And while Union jobs are a small percentage of the entire workforce, the growth of high paying, union-protected government jobs seems to be the only employment expansion going on.  This not only highlights the astonishing incursion of that government and its minions into the present and future in this country, but the control of organized labor in today's government.  And it is that very incursion that perhaps most contributes to the stagnation; both in terms of growing the economy and restraining the runaway spending that plagues government.  A government that pays more to its own unionized staff than the private sector does (or can afford to), while imposing its will upon private corporations has done nothing to promote growth or alleviate the current malaise.

A willingness to gift large parts of GM and Chrysler to their Unions, ignoring the limitations of the Constitution and legal traditions regarding preferred debtors, and the nonsensical interference with Boeing's attempts to build production lines where it wants to cannot help but make one wonder who is indeed in control of policy in Washington itself.  And while there has always been a fear of government and religion having far too cozy a relationship, one cannot help but wonder instead if equal or greater concern should be directed at the affinity of the labor movement with those in power these days.  

Celebrating the labor movement in this country hardly seems patriotic, though it could be considered politically expedient.  Certainly, labor unions are seen by as  large contributors and equally large voting blocks by those running for elected office these days; and not to be trifled with.  The influence of labor leaders over policy and legislation is often far greater than their actual numbers would seem to justify as a consequence. Perhaps then, it's long past time that the unrecognized leverage of Unions took its place along with corrupt lobbyists and evil corporations as an unhealthy influence on the direction in which the ship of state sails.

Now as luck would have it, the KC Irishfest is going on this weekend.  I am determined to attend at least one day of these festivities (and perhaps even tip back a pint or two).  I refuse however to acknowledge the motivation for the holiday that it falls within.  So it is with truly mixed feeling that I wish you what I choose instead to call a "Happy Workers Day".   


Roland Hansen said...

I have heard and read many opinions from people who believe that labor unions have too much influence and power when it comes to politics, politicians, and government.
I openly pose the question:
Does not the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have an inordinate amount of influence and power when it comes to politics, politicians, and government?


Timothy W Higgins said...


I believe that the Chamber is a special interest group in a growing number of special interest groups. Their influence waxes and wanes with each election. As for their power, I judge it based on how much policy is proposed and passed that they support and how much is proposed and passed that they decry.

On that basis, I would hardly consider their current level of power inordinate. I would in fact probably say that they have less influence than they used to in the White House, but may be regaining some in Congress.

Roland Hansen said...

As an aside, the website for Open Secrets Center for Responsive Politics has some very good information. They even have a web page PAC Contributions to Federal Candidates.

Timothy W Higgins said...


I won't question the numbers listed on the site, which seem to indicate that most if not all special interest groups hedge their bets. I am somewhat skeptical of the source and will need to look for verification and context before I accept this site as a source of fact however.

Forgive me, but I cannot help but question a site which has a SEIU logo on its Labor Day posting as being somewhat biased, regardless of their stated name.