“Early celebrations of Labor Day included parades that exhibited the strength of the trade and labor organizations. Up until the 1970s, Labor Day parades in honor of the Labor Movement, were held all over the country. However, in recent times there has been a change. It’s somewhat telling that today, in the age of consumerism, Labor Day is recognized as little more than a day off from work and a great time to shop.” (From “Labor Day Past and Present,” by Sharon Kyle in the LA Progressive).
“We go out and we buy a lot of products made in China. That’s how we celebrate Labor Day.” (David Letterman, quoted in “Labor Day as Memorial Holiday; Middle Class R.I.P.,” by Rob Kall in OpEd News).
For the 15-plus million Americans who are unemployed, having an extra day off to shop (whether for Chinese goods or not) is no longer meaningful in any way, except as a bitter reminder of the hard times they have fallen into.
Let’s use this day to remember the importance of labor in America, and to reflect on the structural changes in the economy — the changes independent of busts and booms — which have worked for several decades to drive middle class workers into poverty.
First among these changes is the extreme level of inequality which began to accelerate following the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
A recent report published by the Institute of Policy Studies showed that CEOs who fired the most workers got the biggest salaries. Sarah Anderson, Global Economy Project Director for the Institute of Policy Studies and the lead author of the report, “Ceo Pay and the Great Recession” – tracked the compensation of CEOs for the 50 companies that have laid off the largest number of American workers. She found that the CEOs who fired the most workers made significantly more than their peers at other S&P 500 companies.
Anderson was interviewed by Juan Gonzales. When asked for an example of a CEO who fit the profile documented in her report, Anderson offered up Mark Hurd, former CEO of Hewlett Packard who laid off more than 30,000 workers in an attempt to tighten the corporations belt – well, tighten everyone’s belt but his own. Mark Hurd earned more than $20 million dollars that year – just before being fired. (From “Labor Day Past and Present,” by Sharon Kyle in the LA Progressive).