Maybe Labor Day ought to be renamed.
Right now, the holiday is frequently cast in a historic light, a day off from work to recognize the hard work and sacrifices made by steelworkers, factory grunts, railwaymen, immigrants, and other low skilled laborers who fought for their rights around the turn of the 20th century. And for much of the 1900s, that was just fine — unions had become mainstream, workers earned living wages, and the middle class flourished.
But the last four decades have shredded the lives guaranteed by those brave workers, and at this point, unless you’re a CEO or have the sort of money required to build vast underground bunkers, this Labor Day shouldn’t be a remembrance so much as a reminder of the existential fight we ‘re all in together.
Simply put: When the bosses — mostly rich conservative businessmen (like the late David Koch) — began to take over, the rest of us began to get poorer.
Income inequality has skyrocketed over the last 20 years, and the recovery from the 2008 recession has only underlined the gross disparity. The statistics are grim — even before the Trump tax scam, the top 1% of Americans took home a whopping 188 times more than the bottom 90%. This isn’t a matter of how we treat our most vulnerable so much as a horrifying reality about how hard it is for most of us to get ahead.
The Trump administration, a cabal run for and by the richest bosses, is only pouring gasoline on the blaze, with a run of Department of Labor and NLRB rulings that have more or less granted employers the right to strip employees of overtime pay and generally treat — or mistreat — their employees however they please; they now have the right to discriminate based on “religious beliefs,” hide safety violations, avoid any penalties for sexual harassment, and reclassify employees at will.
That last item doesn’t just impact Uber drivers, assembly line workers, and call center employees. One in three adults works a “non-traditional” job — freelance, on-call, or part-time — to get by, while most positions over the last decade have been contract work, robbing millions of benefits and stability so companies can save a bit of money.
The assault on workers is disastrous in and of itself, but also a microcosm of their greater worldview and mendacious intent. It ‘s not just about hurting their own workers or paying them less.
When the bosses take power, they don ‘t just go after paychecks; their maniacal, singular focus on profit at any cost winds up costing all of us. The best of organized labor isn’t focused just on winning raises for its workers, but also rebalancing the political landscape to stop the many catastrophes we are experiencing.
When the bosses take complete power, we all choke.
Think of the methane regulations that Trump ‘s EPA just turned back, a movie that promises to hasten climate change; that they announced the rule rollback as the Amazon burned and a monster hurricane headed for the coast of Florida only underlines their devotion to destruction in the name of short-term greed. It ‘s no coincidence that the EPA is run by longtime coal lobbyists, who will no doubt profit off the carnage they hasten.
When the bosses take complete power, we all get sicker.
Hospital chains have been closing rural hospitals at a record pace — sometimes, after epic swindles leave communities high and dry. Pharmaceutical companies have sent drug prices skyrocketing and buried the truth about the opioid crisis. Medical bankruptcies are through the roof, thanks in part to unexpected fees that no politician seems to want to tackle. When you ‘re in an emergency room, you have no say over your care, no matter how rich you are, and medical debt can wipe out even million-dollar fortunes.
On top of it all, insurance companies have fought for the right to sell junk healthcare plans, putting millions of people in danger of being denied care or robbed blind when sick, because it saves the bosses some money.
When the bosses take complete power, our rent skyrockets.
A recent survey discovered that working a full-time minimum wage would not pay for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. There is a national shortage of 7.2 million affordable housing units for low-income Americans across the country, and tens of millions of people are paying up to half of their income on rent.
The Trump administration’s “signature” effort to spur development has become, shockingly, a gold rush for rich investors who are building luxury apartments for other rich investors. Turning cities into gilded playgrounds for millionaires has a ripple effect, jacking up rents even further everywhere else.
When the bosses take complete power, we all become target practice.
This weekend saw another devastating mass shooting in Texas, this time in Odessa. We’ve become almost numb to the carnage, but the painful irony of the state loosening its regulations on firearms just a day later should not be ignored. Fringe-right lawmakers just don ‘t care about people ‘s safety, so long as they receive donations from gun manufacturers.
We are in nothing short of class warfare, enabled by the long myth of the accessible American Dream. The rugged individualist spirit has bred this belief that anyone can climb to the top, but the ladders are being pulled up (and set on fire) as we speak. But the bosses can only keep this con going so long as we fight amongst ourselves, stepping on one another ‘s skulls in evermore vain attempts to grab a rung. It ‘s the richest versus everyone else. We are all labor.