Labor Day 2012

If you are employed, hopefully this Labor Day you are enjoying a day of leisure; a day off from your job.  But you’re probably not giving a lot of thought to all those who must work today.  Not just those who devote the working part of their lives to retail, emergency services like police and fire personnel, hospital and medical staffs, but the journalists, broadcasters, gas station attendants and others who toil while the rest of us have time to chill out.  And you’re probably giving less thought to those who came before us who fought for fair wages, reasonable working hours and safe working conditions.
However these are circumstances we shouldn’t take for granted today.  Those who fought for worker rights in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s would be amazed by the changes to workers’ rights and employment opportunities we share today.  And they would be saddened at today’s high unemployment rates, the loss of jobs to foreign countries, and the decimation of benefits and pensions.
As little as twenty five years ago, over 65% of workers had employer-paid retirement benefits and post-retirement pensions.  Today, less than 25% of employers outside the public sector provide post-retirement benefits.  Our forbearers would be dismayed at this decline in employers helping devoted and loyal workers prepare for their and their families’ future.
And contrary to what many younger job seekers believe these days, retirement benefits are not a guaranteed perk of employment, though we all wish they were.  Nowhere is it written that employers must provide benefits, retirement or otherwise.  And sadly, with the cost of living rising faster than pay increases and bank-deposit interest rates, any financial perks you might receive today in the current economic climate will certainly not be enough for your future.
So what can we do to make things better?
By no means do I have all the answers.  I don’t!  But I’ll say this much:  If you’re an employer, do everything you can to create new jobs and new positions.  Instigate job sharing programs and flexible hours.  And do everything in your power to keep the workers you already have.  (Yeah, I know this may mean offering fewer benefits to keep people working.  Ironic, isn’t it?)  And keep the jobs in America!  Stop outsourcing the jobs that can be done here at home!
If you’re working, give your employer their money’s worth.  Put in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay.
Employer or employee, do everything you can on the job to keep the cost of operations down.  This means cutting down on waste, conserving resources, recycling, and finding ways to make your job and work place more efficient.  This could include using internet telephony instead of landlines; conserving energy by using compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent and long tube fluorescent lighting, turning off lights in unoccupied spaces, low-flow toilets, etc.  It also means not using your printer unless you really need a hard copy of a document.  And if you’re still using a fax machine, convert to an email based fax system so only the documents you really need get printed.
And the other thing you can do, employer, employee or unemployed, is VOTE.  We’re just 2 months away from a major election, and you can let your opinions be known by voting for the candidates (local and national) you believe will work to create jobs and job training programs and other resources.  Look for a candidate who supports small independent business and entrepreneurship, the employment sector that creates the most jobs.
Collectively, were all these actions performed by more of us, we could have a direct and positive impact on the nation’s job growth and employee retention rates.  No, these are not the whole solution, but they can be contributing factors to many companies’ ability to keep some, if not all their valued and loyal workers, reduce layoffs, and keep providing key health and financial benefits.
Even though our economy appears to be rebounding somewhat, unemployment rates are still way too high.  Those who are working are taking on heavier workloads, have less support; and more responsibilities.  The fight for worker’s rights and protections is a long way from over!
So on this Labor Day 2012, take a moment to remember the men and women who came before us, who worked long, hard hours of labor, who toiled.  Remember those who built our roads, buildings, and infrastructures.  And recall those who fought hard, made great sacrifices, and who helped establish our unions, labor laws, standards and safe guards, which many of us know today, but that we still can’t take for granted.
Here’s to our labor force!  Blue collar and white collar.  Then and now!  Enjoy YOUR day!!!
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