Today in the United States, we celebrate Labor Day, a day described by the U.S. Department of Labor as “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
It is a sobering time for American workers. The unemployment rate, which has been slightly above 9% for 16 consecutive months, rose again in the month of August. Workers keep losing jobs, while others see their hours, wages and benefits cut. According to a study released this past week, employers shifted more health care costs onto workers in 2010 and plan to shift even more in 2011. And in addition to economic losses, a number of workers lost their lives in the past year in work-related accidents, including BP oil platform workers and coal miners for the West Virginia Massey company.
This post is not about the politics of improving the plight of workers. There are plenty of places to argue about what role government should play in labor relations and what is appropriately a subject of federal concern vs. the province of state and local entites.
But whatever our politics and our views, today is a day on which we can stop to pay “tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” It is a day on which we can give thanks for those whose labor makes our own lives a little easier. And it is a day on which we can pray for the fair treatment of all workers and ask ourselves what we are doing to promote justice in the workplace.