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Labor Day

In any celebration of Labor Day I’m at a slight disadvantage because for a big chunk of my life it was celebrated as May Day where I was living.

It is rather unique, as it is the only holiday I’m aware of that was imported from Canada where it’s spelled Labour Day.

When I was an elementary school student, it marked the end of summer and beginning of school, but it is a rare holiday in the South as there is no tradition of blowing things up in celebration. There is also no tradition of honoring labor in the South, and labor unions are considered communist conspiracies.

Things were different in New York, as it was considered respectable to belong to a union and at various times I belonged to two, and was actually elected treasurer of my AFSCME local.

The largest benefit of belonging to a union is dealing with the employers. The union acts as a buffer and keeps disputes from becoming personal. There is a known and accepted procedure for settling disputes that improves the atmosphere in the workplace because people have to follow the “rules” whether they are managers or workers.

Somewhere along the way people have forgotten that the best way of getting people to work hard for a business is to allow them to benefit from the success of the business. There was a time when corporations and workers were loyal to each other. The workers benefited from increased profits, so they had a reason to work as efficiently as possible. Now, only top managers and investors derive any benefit from success, so workers aren’t “investing” in their employers. Everyone loses.

A point that should be stressed on Labor Day is that if you look at the long list of disastrous business failures the one thing that becomes clear is that they were caused by management – the group that suffered the least. If a few senior managers go to prison, they at least get fed and have a place to sleep, something that is not always true for the workers.