Monday will be a nice day off. The kids will enjoy it and we can have some family time. Whether I work or don't work, however, the day is not for me. It is not for most of us. It is a holiday to celebrate unions.
For me I guess it will be like it is for an atheist on Christmas Day.
For most Americans it is just a day off. Union membership in the private sector is so low that we are unlikely to even think about it. (Again, it is like Christmas - a lot of people celebrate, but they don't know why.)
Chicago played a major part in the creation of Labor Day. On May 4th, 1886, eight police officers and an unknown number of civilians were killed in a labor riot known as the Haymarket Affair. While that horrible day played a part in May Day celebrations thereafter, it also influenced President Grover Cleveland to bypass May as a date for Labor Day to avoid stirring up negative emotions.
Union membership has grown a bit lately but primarily due to the growth of government. Less than 8 percent of private sector workers are unionized, compared to nearly 37 percent of government workers, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private sector workers can, in the American tradition, fend for themselves. Government meanwhile, in cooperation with unions, does nothing more that unreasonably drive up costs. I pointed this out recently in my report on the Prevailing Wage Act.
When a legislature enacts something like the Prevailing Wages Act, they require that a laborer be paid a base rate well north of $100,000 a year. Are there people who would do labor on a construction site or a road project for less? Is the legislature negotiating rates on behalf of its employer (the people) or doing the bidding of the vendor? Do politicians put unions before people?
Governor Daniels of Indiana points out that government growth in the various states is the problem, not the solution. Governments in this nation have expanded their reach through growth in spending that outpaces growth in inflation and population combined. That is certainly the case here in Illinois.
Poor people on the South side of Chicago need jobs and they need a safe, economical place to shop for essentials, especially good wholesome food. Yet politicians doing the bidding of unions are keeping Wal-Mart out of Chicago. Unions before people.
Union supporters will point to accomplishments in the past that improved the lot of the worker against the huge uncaring corporation. That is all fine - and a worthy topic of study and discussion - but this isn't 1886.
Today's worker has a high school education available to him or her at no direct cost to their family. College is available to anyone who is willing to win scholarships and/or take advantage of financial aid. Laws regulating the workplace - many of which the unions did their part in birthing - along with a social welfare safety net, give any hard working person who stays in school more than a chance to make it on their own, without having to share their resources with a union if they don't want to.
But unions are not satisfied with people deciding of their own volition to opt out. That is why they continue to try to pass legislation to make it easier for unions to get their grip on a workplace. Once in, the unions have a habit of also using coercive government force to allow them to make membership compulsory. There is very little to suggest that unions subscribe to the concept of democracy.
So what are we celebrating?