Today is Labor Day, and it is too often a day ignored for its true meaning, the celebration of American workers and the labor unions which brought about the middle class in America, now under direct attack and threat.
It was the hard work of labor unions and workers that brought about the reforms we accept as normal today, including wages and hours laws, the minimum wage, the end of child labor, promotion of equal pay for equal work, occupational safety laws, and the expansion of basic worker benefits, such as health care, sick leave, vacation time, and pension benefits for millions.
But in the age of corporate greed and concentration, the second Gilded Age that we are in since the Ronald Reagan Presidency, we have seen the rapid decline of labor rights and of union power, and many ignorant Americans actually believe somehow that this is all to the good.Â People applaud the anti union record of the Republican Party, which has been consistent for a century, and some think the war on public union rights by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is to be applauded, when it is an outrage!
Many people do not seem to realize that their basic worker rights have been curbed dramatically, and then wonder what can be done about it, and the answer is to work to promote union rights, and stop seeing unions as somehow a negative, simply because of some examples in the past of union corruption.
Yes, there have been union violations at times, but nowhere near the corporate violations of the public trust, and the way to expand labor rights is to support union expansion to combat the power of the corporations that have too much power over the American economy!
Unions stopped child labor? Economist George Reisman points out in his book Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1998):
â€œThey have opposed the introduction of labor-saving machinery on the grounds that it causes unemployment. â€¦ The abolition of child labor was an accomplishment of capitalism and the rise in the productivity of labor it achieved. As in the case of maximum-hours laws, insofar as child-labor laws merely ratified the abolition of child labor already being achieved by the market, they were superfluous. Insofar as they went ahead of the market, and imposed reductions in child labor beyond what parents judged their families could afford, they were destructive. Along with depriving poor families of urgently needed income, they had the effect of forcing children to work at lower wages and in poorer conditions than they needed to.â€ (pp. 658â€“662) Is Reisman wrong?
This is a right wing interpretation, nothing new.
Child labor was ended by federal legislation under Wilson in 1916, then declared unconstitutional by the conservative Supreme Court in the 1920s, and then became law for good under FDR. Believe me, corporations had fought for the continuation of child labor, and helped to cause its demise as federal law in the 1920s, and labor had to fight for it and FDR finally accomplished it for good.
Corporations are not social work agencies, and do not give a damn about the conditions of their employees, unless forced by federal intervention!