Happy Labor Day!
On Labor Day, we are supposed to celebrate the contribution of American workers to the strength and success of our nation, and I’m glad I could join union workers here in St. Cloud to do just that. However, I understand that most people don’t celebrate labor on this day and are instead just enjoying a Monday off (if their job is even that kind). It’s exactly that dilution of Labor Day’s significance that serves a periodic reminder of what damage has been done to the labor movement over the last few decades. Twenty-seven states have enacted right-to-work laws that starve unions of funding, federal minimum wage peaked in inflation adjusted value in 1968 and we haven’t even seen an increase in over ten years, and our bizarre gig economy fueled by companies like Uber and Lyft are placing more workers into the category of ‘contractor’ which strips them of rights and protections. American workers have never been more productive than they are today, but we don’t have the compensation, vacation time, or even paid sick and safe time to show for it that most developed nations do.
Not long ago in our history Republicans like Eisenhower could agree with Democrats like FDR that strong labor rights and unions were necessary in the fight against authoritarianism. Is it then that surprising that the weakening of labor rights across the globe is coinciding with the rise of right-wing authoritarian leaders? Labor Day is not a reminder of a historic victory, it’s a reminder that a movement is still happening that has always served the interests of the American people. On this Labor Day, remember that the movement is being undermined by unscrupulous and corrupt politicians to garner more legalized bribes from those that stand to gain from destroying our nation’s most treasured institutions and stripping rights away from American workers. An unfortunate truth about our country may be that slave labor and attempting to approximate slave labor is a fundamentally American practice, but we absolutely must stand united against the tendencies of the rich and powerful to oppress the people that actually work for a living for their own gain.