by Nick Taylor
We need to honor American workers once again by committing to paying them a living wage. Otherwise, we might as well drop Labor Day and substitute a holiday dedicated to low prices. We could call it Underwater Worker Day.
Labor Day began in 1894 to celebrate the American worker. Lately, however, American workers have lost ground on jobs, wages, and union representation. One result is depopulation of the middle class and an erosion of the traditional American dream — that we can all find a spot on the ladder to a better life.
Our economy now takes advantage of workers in the name of providing cheap consumer goods. Saving money is great! Everybody likes a bargain. But what’s the advantage when those bargains come at the expense of people who can’t afford to buy what they’re employed to produce or sell? Henry Ford understood this contradiction. It’s why he took the unheard-of step of doubling his assembly line workers’ pay to $5 a day in 1914 so they could buy the Model T’s they were making.
The U.S. House of Representatives and many employers continue to resist President Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from the current $7.25. It’s been the same since 2009 and even the proposed increase lags far behind worker productivity. At the same time, according to The New York Times, some employers manipulate time sheets, pile on unpaid overtime and commit other forms of wage theft. And some anti-regulation politicians think bringing back child labor would be a good idea.
We get it that employers need to stay in business if they’re to provide jobs. But a rush to the bottom, where workers are squeezed for every penny, leaves families poorer financially, emotionally, and in terms of opportunity.
Or, better yet, we could rededicate ourselves to celebrate labor and raise wages.