Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Labor Day Round Up: Let's Hear It For The Workers

Thomas Perez has been Secretary of Labor for just about a year now, having been sworn in on September 4, 2013.  He missed giving his first Labor Day pronouncement by two days, so this year's pronouncement is his first.

Here's what he had to say:

Statement on Labor Day by US Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

WASHINGTON — Each year, Labor Day gives us an opportunity to recognize the invaluable contributions that working men and women make to our nation, our economy and our collective prosperity. It gives us a chance to show gratitude for workers' grit, dedication, ingenuity and strength, which define our nation's character. At the Labor Department, it also provides an opportunity to reflect on how we can best serve and honor workers in return.

This year, we're honoring workers by investing more than a $1 billion in job-driven training programs to give Americans the skills employers need. We're honoring workers by promoting quality apprenticeships that will enable more people to "earn and learn." We're honoring workers, at President Obama's direction, by developing new rules to give more workers access to overtime pay and increase the minimum wage for private-sector workers hired under federal contracts. We're honoring workers by implementing a new life-saving rule to limit miners' exposure to coal dust and move us closer to eliminating black lung disease and by taking the next steps toward protecting workers from inhaling high levels of crystalline silica.

But as a nation, we can do more to lift workers up, and to ensure that all hardworking people are able to climb ladders of opportunity and reach for the American dream. It's time to raise the national minimum wage, so that no one working a full-time job has to live in poverty. It's time to update our workplace policies to reflect the realities of the 21st century labor force and to support modern working families. It's time to continue our nation's long commitment to supporting unemployed workers by extending emergency unemployment compensation.

Our nation is in the midst of a strong economic recovery. Job growth has topped 200,000 for six consecutive months — the first such stretch since 1997. Businesses have added nearly 10 million jobs since February 2010, with 53 consecutive months of growth. I'm optimistic about where we're headed — and I know we wouldn't be where we are without the resilience, commitment and strength of American workers.

This Labor Day, let's remember that hardworking men and women are the backbone of our country, and let's redouble our efforts to uphold our nation's great promise to them: that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can make it in America.
 The emphasis is mine and here's why:  This is Labor Secretary Perez's first Labor Day speech--a fine tradition continued by Labor Secretaries for decades now, and this one, by most standards, is not bad.  It says what you would expect from the Labor Secretary.  Workers are great and we're doing all we can to make sure they know that so they'll keep on working. 

But really, Secretary Perez?  Couldn't you have mentioned unions and the labor movement at least once?

Labor Day is an American holiday created by labor unions.  It became a national holiday in 1894, and since then it has been celebrated on the first Monday in September, without fail.   We celebrate the labor movement on Labor Day each year because working hard and playing by the rules (whose rules?) was not and never has been a ticket to success in America.  It took the labor movement to gather enough strength to make sure hard working, rules-playing workers got a fair shake in the workplace.

So let's look at what others are saying on this 160th anniversary of the American Labor Day weekend:

Robert Reich, Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton, created a video with cartoons for his Labor Day contribution.  He mentions unions.   (Bonus:  PBS Frontline interview in which he talks about his job as Labor Secretary.)

Richard Reeves takes this time to call Labor Day "a farce".  He has his reasons.

Richard Trumka asks a question this Labor Day, and the AFL-CIO offers printable "Thank a Worker" cards

 AFSCME president Lee A. Saunders gets tough on politicians who scapegoat unions.  (It happens.)

Even Forbes gets in on it, with an essay by Steve Dunning entitled, "The Shame of Labor Day".  (Hint:  Ronald Reagan started this mess.)

And, as I seem to do every year, let me just drag out a few of my own Labor Day columns.  Whatever I might say today I've already said here and here and here.

But, hey, not everybody wants to celebrate.  The Freedom Foundation (Not just any old Freedom Foundation, THE Freedom Foundation) is boycotting Labor Day by going in to work!  Here's CEO Tom McCabe: 
"I can't think of a problem in society that can't be traced in some way back to the abuses of organized labor, and it would be hypocritical of us to take a day off on its behalf."

Well, yeah!  That'll show us!

Hope your long weekend was a smash hit.  If you were lucky enough to have all three days off, don't forget to thank the union movement.  Without unions fighting for your rights, you might never have had a day off, let alone a paid day off.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Alan Colmes' Liberaland)

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