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SOUND OFF: Labor Day, a Day to Remember the Worker, if not the Union

The holiday we celebrate as Labor Day began as a recognition of the American worker, and was begun with campaigns by labor unions.

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day celebration, a day to celebrate the American worker, the unions that represent many American workers are reviled.

Too strong a word? Not really. Many Americans now blame organized labor for rising government budgets, and taxes, for the out-sourcing of jobs to other countries.

Opponents say unions today have grown too powerful, are hampering progress in areas including public education.

Proponents say labor unions ensure that workers are not taken advantage of by employers, in areas including salary, benefits and workplace safety.

A common slogan among organized labor proponents goes something like this: Thank a union if you enjoy your two-day weekend, and a 40-hour work week.

As we start out on the long, Labor Day weekend, what are your thoughts on unions? Do they belong to the past, or are they as relevant today as ever?

Deb Spence September 04, 2012 at 03:34 PM
There seems to be a dichotomy here where people want smaller government yet cite the government for protecting workers rights. If major corporations had their way they would dismantle OSHA and EEO and all of the other regulations they believe stifles competition. Corporations didn't send jobs overseas because of union costs, they sent them overseas because no one in America can afford to live on the salaries that foreign workers can live on. As more and more corporations become public and CEOs are responsible to profits for investors, the workers suffer. Yes there are some companies out there that do well by their workers but many do not. The pension used to be a large selling point for employers but not so much now. Time will tell how well the stock market holds up for those who depend upon it for retirement. Honor and respect the workers. They deserve it !
Will Oliveira September 04, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Deb, the 401k was introduced in the late 1970's, offloading pension responsibilities of corporations to the individual and the results are starting to come in. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 60% of workers 55 and older have less than $100k saved for retirement. Only 22% of workers in that group have $250k or more. It seems that as pensions have declined, so has the middle class.
Jim Rizoli September 04, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Too much corruption and the members are the ones who suffer for it. Jim@ccfiile.com
Paul Bishop September 04, 2012 at 05:38 PM
David- I worked for one of the largest employers in the area, Fidelity Investments. Certain portions of their operations are unionized, and those areas avoid events like those that occurred to me. You see, in Massachusetts, it *IS* "Legal" to preferentially select (and add to rolls due to) employees with disabilities for Layoff. My position was not eliminated, I was replaced by a NEW HIRE "healthy employee" and subsequently my medical insurance and disability insurance was taken by legal wrangling by the corporation while I was literally fighting for my life, never mind the financial security of my family. What occurred to me would simply not have occurred had I had a union to represent me and my basic human rights... "Legal" or not.
David Nolta September 04, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Congratulations, Dave, on having a great job. And it's good that you feel sufficiently protected by the Massachusetts labor laws. A lot of people, however--more and more--do not enjoy the benefits you claim, have poorly-paying jobs with little or no security, and certainly have nothing to compare with the salaries of people in professional sports. I am talking about librarians, nurses, school teachers, bricklayers, police and fire workers, janitors, etc. And to say that their unions are like big corporations is to betray an insensitivity to their struggle for decent wages and working conditions (it is SO still a jungle out there, for others if not for you), not to mention an inexplicable denial of the way so many REAL corporations treat their workers--even worse than their shareholders--and not a long time ago, but especially throughout the past two decades--in other words, NOW.

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