Labor Day 2009 is no picnic for millions of Americans

September 7, 2009

The first Labor Day was held on September 5, 1882 in New York City and was a rally of about 20,000 workers who demanded an eight hour work day and other labor reforms. It became an official national holiday in 1894. Over the years Labor Day moved away from the political beginnings to a day set aside to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the American worker. Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated with parades and picnics over the span of the three-day weekend and marks the end of summer.

This year there is little to celebrate for most American workers. Many of the lowest paid workers - including those who have been lucky enough to keep their jobs - have seen their hours and benefits cut. The standard 40-hour work week has evolved into the 32-hour work week for millions of American workers and is quickly becoming the accepted norm.

For those who have no job, Labor Day is just like any other day, another day without work. Unemployment has reached 9.7 percent in the United States, the highest level in 25 years. Seven million jobs have been lost since the recession beginning of the recession in 2007.

The cost of living rises, while wages decrease. Employers ask workers to take pay cuts and to forgo annual step increases and raises. They are told that they must pay for benefits that were once paid for by employers. It's especially disheartening to those employees who have to suffer financial losses while they watch their employer's profits remain the same or soar.

Minimum wage jobs that used to be available to students are now being grabbed up by adults who lost their jobs or need a part-time job to supplement their low paying full time job. Teachers have always been among those who have had to supplement their meager salaries, but now there other professionals joining the pool for part-time jobs, making them scarcer for all who are seeking one.

The good-intentioned Obama Administration has bailed out banks who have in turn raised the interest rates of millions of Americans, and clung unto their money by giving out fewer loans. Millions of Americans are losing their homes because greedy lenders approved mortgages too high for the applicants to afford. Job loss, failure of income growth and skyrocketing medical costs combined with the lack of affordable medical insurance are also causing millions of bankruptcies and foreclosures.

For the growing number of poor or middle class workers, retirement is something that is likely to be realized only with death, as fewer workers can afford to retire. Vacations in exotic places have given way to shorter ones closer to home or none at all. The American dream is fading as the quality of life for the average worker is plummets.

The AFL-CIO reported that for workers under the age of 35 there is a bleak picture: 69% do not have enough money to pay their bills; only 51% have no retirement plans; 31% have no health insurance; and 67% say that prices are rising faster than their incomes.

Today as in 1882, there is much need for labor reform in the U.S. and in the CNMI. It is not an isolated issue that can be addressed exclusively. Labor reform will be institutionalized and embedded in the fabric of our nation when we have comprehensive immigration reform, health care reform, reform of financial institutions and strengthening of unions that protect workers' rights.

For those of us who are lucky enough to be employed, we can celebrate this Labor Day by reaching out to someone who does not have a job this year. Invite a family to a picnic; take an unemployed friend to the beach; clean out your closet and donate the clothes to those in need; give school supplies to children whose parents don't have a job; prepare a resume for an unemployed friend; or encourage our unemployed friends to join us in a volunteer effort.

As we commemorate Labor Day this year, let's commit to working to ensure a much brighter Labor Day for 2010.

Wendy L. Doromal ©2009


Anonymous said...

"For those who have no job, Labor Day is just like any other day, another day without work. Unemployment has reached 9.7 percent in the United States, the highest level in 25 years. Seven million jobs have been lost since the recession beginning of the recession in 2007."

Sometimes the foot fits so perfectly in the mouth. Thousands of Filipinos want green cards so they can travel to the US mainland at a time like this? Those Americans with no jobs should have absolute priority when it comes to landing jobs, period. Yes Wendy, they want to leave Saipan, the sinking ship.

Anonymous said...

We also need to honor labor in the 95.5% of the world that is not the US, in places that observe the day on May 1st.

The best way to do that here in the CNMI is to encourage unemployed foreign national workers to return to their homelands with their US citizen children.

They should apply the skills they have practiced here for the benefit of their own nations -- not selfishly only for the US, and give their children the advantage of an international upbringing.

Honor labor worldwide. Make a difference! We are all brothers and sisters.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

First two commenter representing conflicting remarks.... first is against guest workers leaving Saipan while the second is encouraging guest workers to go home... it's been a long time and until now you guys cannot agreed to what you can do to your island?

Wendy said...

Anonymous 4:07:
Read this too: Union membership in California increases despite recession, study finds

Both my husband and I belong to unions that are under the AFL-CIO. They are growing here too (Florida) Yesterday there were 20,000 at the AFL-CIO picnic in Ohio to hear President Obama give a great speech.

There were AFL-CIO picnics all over the county including one in down town Orlando that attracted thousands of union members, their families and many politicians who praised the unions.

People are joining because they are fed up and whether they belong or not, they know the union will fight for their rights. I am currently a union rep. and was a former board member for 5 years for our union. It is the unions in America who are in the forefront and trenches fighting for workers' rights.

Proud Working Poor said...

It is no coincidence that the population of Florida is now declining.

Unions help the lucky “few” selfish members at the expense of the rest of the working poor of society.

They are an institution whose time has passed. Unfortunately they may yet persist for decades, to the overall detriment of society.

Fortunately, this blight has not infested the CNMI.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 11:06

Florida is a right-to-work state. Our union bargains for all employees whether paying union members or not. So if anyone is "selfish" it would be those employees who don't join and pay dues, but reap all the benefits. I think of them as those people who show up at a potluck without any food.

The decline of the population in Florida (In some areas only) has to do with the economy that is based on tourism. Like the CNMI, Florida's tourist-based economy declines in an economic downfall.

Fortunately for who unions have not infested the CNMI". For greedy employers who like to stick it to their employees?

Anonymous said...

For hard-working minimum wage employees who like to have jobs.

I didn't know FL was a RTW state, so you are right, the minimal population decline is not likely attributable to unionization. But education shortcomings could be.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:14

You know nothing, zip, nada about Florida's education system. You just like to argue for the sake of argument.

Education's shortcomings are primarily due to a legislature and governor who do not properly fund education.

the teacher said...

It would be a sad day in America if workers couldn't organize and bargain collectively.

America’s middle class, even those that don't belong to unions, owe much to workers who fought for the protections and benefits they enjoy today.

The rise of the middle class was initiated by union organization and the destruction of that organization would lead to a fall in the standard of living the American middle class currently enjoys.

Pure capitalism leads to a sharp separation between the rich and the poor. As union power and membership dropped during the 1980’s, so did the gap separating the have and have not. America was once similar to emerging industrial nations today, with a small percentage of owners monopolizing the wealth. In a world without protections, the rules of the game of Monopoly would prevail.

Globalization may crush US union clout and the effects of it are being felt in the Great lakes region, or the former industrial belt now referred to as the rust belt.

Globalization could improve the impovershed 3rd world while hurting Americas middle class.

There are no simple answers to omplicated problems, but the world does need a more equitable way to distribute our rapidly dwindling resources.

Anonymous said...

The United Autoworkers destroyed what was left of the US Auto Industry. Overpaid and under worked they milked and bilked the system dry including the latest bailout of their pensions.

captain said...

Through my life I have been a strong ANTI union. Many large companies have spur companies that are non union. Example, Boeing Space and Communications, Hawaiian Dredging, GE,Westinghouse, General Dynamics.
The workers and the smaller companies can bid and take on projects that are cost prohibitive for the larger corporations while supplying jobs to people that would be stuck in a lower "rank" and pay slot in a union company. Us workers have better better moral,better benefits and make more money working for these smaller spur corporations that do business both in the US and worldwide

Anonymous said...

It also takes less workers to do much more work than Union companies. Union is only about the numbers, both dollars and manpower.
Unions do not allow multi task employees. cannot use one person, a welder to cut,fit and weld.
You need to have one person to cut steel,another to fit the steel,then along comes a "welder" to weld the joints.
Three people to do one persons work.
This puts more burden on the company.

Anonymous said...

noni 12:42

"Unions do not allow multi task employees"

Not true!

Anonymous said...

noni 12:42

"Unions do not allow multi task employees"

Not true!