To the editor:
Ah, Labor Day. The once-public national holiday gives us an excuse to stay home, cook out, or take a last fling at summer fun. That’s nice.
It seems we have, in the midst of the Great Recession, another way to view Labor Day. If you read a recent Journal-World editorial, it’s a good day to be optimistic about the economic future of the country. The Ford Motor Co. is doing well. That’s nice, too.
You can also treat it as a partisan holiday, “founded primarily to recognize the efforts of labor unions in gaining better working conditions for American workers.” That’s not quite as nice as it sounds because after more than 150 years of “efforts,” 93 percent of private-sector American workers have no union representation, 9.6 percent of them are out of work, and most of the rest are deep in debt.
A certain irony attends the celebrating of the 40-hour work week, wage gains and employee benefits when those gains have been eroded by longer work hours, real-dollar income reductions, corporate raids on retirement funds, and the shifting of bloated health care costs from employers to employees. Oh well, they tried. That’s sort of nice.
If we can’t, without risking irony, wholeheartedly celebrate the traditional meaning of Labor Day, how can we acknowledge it? Well, there’s that KU graduate and Ford CEO, Alan Mulally. From union concessions, Ford made $2.7 billion in 2009 and Mulally got $17.9 million.
Now that’s really nice. Hooray for the American worker!