A Grim Labor Day for Workers

Labor Day weekend is usually associated with the last hurrah of summer and the taking of a well deserved day off before the official start of autumn. However, this year the classic holiday in celebration of the American worker comes as the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high and job market participation is at a record low. To add insult to injury we found out Friday  that the US economy generated a whopping total of zero net jobs during the month of August, the first time since World War II.

On Monday President Obama gave a speech in Detroit where he praised the organized labor movement and argued for its continued importance in today’s economy. He also pushed for Congress to approve his jobs plan, to be officially unveiled on Thursday, which would involve stimulus spending targeted at improving infrastructure. He also pushed for extending the payroll tax cut that is due to expire at the end of the year.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne writes that “our culture has given up on honoring workers as the real creators of wealth and their honest toil” and suggests that perhaps the holiday should be renamed “Capital Day” in light of America’s attitude towards workers. He quotes Abraham Lincoln and Pope John Paul II in praise of labor and laments the loss of the American worker in the national spotlight.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney published his jobs plan in USA Today, a plan that aims to promote job creation by lowering the tax rates for corporations and individuals while reducing regulatory burdens. He promises to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and to create the “Reagan Economic Zone.” This trade bloc would be composed of free trade nations and would attempt to counteract alleged Chinese predatory trade practices.

So what is the future of the American labor movement? Union membership has declined for decades and the American public has an increasingly negative view of organized labor. Are unions still essential to the American worker or does the new economy reduce their relevance?

To be blunt, how do we create jobs? Will targeted spending on construction projects and green jobs spur private sector growth or does Mitt Romney have the right idea with low taxes and fewer regulations?

Posted by Max Viscio





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