Labor Day has become a somewhat misunderstood and underappreciated holiday. More often than not workers work on Labor Day while the bosses picnic, golf and go boating to celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. In the desperate struggle to find a way out of the economic chaos the concerns of American workers have been neglected. In the end, if we are able to regain a productive and growing economy it will be the workers who get it done.
Different economists, politicians and academics have differing strategies on what must be done to turn things around. So far we have learned that bailing out international bankers with trillions of dollars from our treasury did not work. Also we know that $780 billion in stimulus money is doing little since more and more people are losing their jobs each month and homeowners continue to face foreclosure despite broken government promises. It is easy to deduct that those in charge of government, finance, heath care and business have really mucked it up and are probably not as smart as they want us to believe.
Nevertheless, the good earth still produces its fruits, natural resources still are found in abundance, the sun rises and sets, and decent people still go about their business of doing their part every day to make the world a better place. We must not lose our optimism in the face of difficulty because conditions will ultimately improve. When they do it will largely be the result of American workers doing whatever it takes to make it happen. The lessons of history can point us in the right direction and those in positions of authority have the responsibility to lead but the plans that work will have to be carried out by the people on the front lines or they will remain only good plans on paper or in a document file.
The argument could be made that without the contribution of workers we would still be a race of hunter-gatherers digging roots and trapping animals to keep alive. The advanced civilization that we enjoy is built on hundreds of generations of the best of human efforts taking what was learned from the past and adding onto that foundation. Those who believe that people are so much smarter today than in the past and that digital technology would solve all problems have suffered a rude awakening. Because of our cultural degradation we are perhaps less able to deal with societal crisis than we would have been one hundred years ago, still there remains hope.
It is not unusual to be awestruck at the sight of a modern metropolis with its architectural wonders, a magnificent bridge spanning a wide waterway or the technical wonders of a new jet liner without thinking of the creators, designers and engineers that conceived them. But how often do you consider that without the very talented and hardworking people who built these and all of the supporting infrastructure, nothing would have come to fruition?
The study of effective organizations teaches that there must be at least seven Indians for every chief or the organization will be top heavy in management. We can deduct that seven out of eight of us are the Indians. The popular culture places great emphasis on aspiring to leadership. The reality is that in worldly endeavors the great majority of the people must be productive workers. It must always be remembered that there is great dignity in work and all jobs are important from the most humble to the most glamorous.
Ancient wisdom proclaims that the worker is worthy of his pay. It is a grave evil to cheat the worker of their pay or undermine individual’s ability to improve their condition. Until recently the United States has lead the world in employee pay and standard of living. Free market capitalism and private ownership of the means of production has been very good for workers, raising more people to higher levels faster and providing unequaled access to opportunity than any other economic system in the history of the world, these facts are undisputable.
The success of capitalism is dependent on both good leaders and good workers achieving their goals in free society. Mechanization, automation and technology along with conscientious personal effort have made American workers the most productive on the globe. Most employers recognize that workers should share in the success of the company and willing reward their associates accordingly. Sadly, there are some employers who view employees as only a cost of production, of no value greater than a pallet jack or a case of copier paper to be purchased at the cheapest possible price.
The truth is that the human potential workers bring to the job is the source of much innovation and problem solving resources enabling much of America’s success. Capitalism is dependent upon private investment. Some people believe their home is their greatest investment but when you decide to take a job, your entire economic well being is almost totally bound to the success of your company making you in reality a fully committed investor. Adopting this perspective could improve workplace relationships for both management and labor.
A lot of the work done in this country is hard, dirty, tedious, stressful and sometimes dangerous. The hours can be long; people might get on you nerves. At the end of the day you may be totally exhausted and your paycheck may be used up before the next one comes around. With all this and more, your work should never be thankless. Your family, your community, your church and your country depend on you. This Labor Day, take the time to thank all the workers you talk to, especially if they work for you. Thank you, American workers, for building our country and for keeping the wheels turning.
By Thomas McGinley. Albany resident Thomas McGinley and his wife, Mary Jane, are third-generation publis issues activists, believing in the highest ideals of the American experience and willing to commit themselves to the work of preserving libert and enhancing opportunity for a brighter tomorrow. Email him at ThomasHMcGinley@bellsouth.net .