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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Happy American Dream Day | 09-02-2013
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The Real Side | Commentary by Joe Messina
| Monday, Sep 2, 2013

joemessinamugMost of you know today as Labor Day. What exactly is Labor Day? Sounds like a day to celebrate work, but it isn’t. Maybe it’s a day where we celebrate the ability for women to give birth? Nope, not that, either.

Labor Day isn’t just a day off with pay. And it’s not BBQ at the beach or a celebration of the end of summer.

Actually, it’s a day for us to celebrate workers. But who really loves to work? Wouldn’t most people love to have enough money not to have to work? So, why do we celebrate the American worker?

Originally, Labor Day was an olive branch extended by President Grover Cleveland after he sent in American troops to stop a railroad workers’ strike. Twelve workers were killed in the process. He gave them a day off (with pay?) to let things settle down. Cleveland’s olive branch withered and the celebration died away.

I appreciate the sacrifices American workers have made over the years to feed their families, buy homes and cars, provide their children’s education, and make a good life. But isn’t that what the American Dream is all about?

In the early days of America, we had many shameful moments. Workers were taken advantage of – working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, being replaced permanently if they were out sick a day or two, and even plant workers being beaten for not working hard enough. Barbaric.

But that was then. America has come a long way. I’ll even give the unions credit for helping to make working conditions fair and give workers some protections. But somewhere along the way, as with any big corporation that disconnects from its people, they went bad. Yes, bad.

Workers’ salaries shouldn’t be based on what the company makes. They should be based on a fair day’s wage for a good day’s work. In most cases, the worker doesn’t lose his investments, 20 years of sweat, his home and cars if the company goes out of business. Business entrepreneurs often do. Workers can usually get a job in the same industry. There is no real risk in being an employee.

The owner of the company usually puts up his house, his name, his reputation, and all of his assets to borrow money to get the company up and running. It’s the entrepreneur who comes up with the idea, figures out how to produce it, figures out how to bring it to market, and figures out how to make a profit on it so he can hire the laborer. Then the laborer can show up do his job, feed his family, afford a house, and so on.

Once in a while, one of those workers rises up, figures out how to do it better, starts his own company, and becomes an entrepreneur. That’s the real American dream: freedom to make money to live comfortably after hard work and ingenuity. Sadly, that’s also what the unions seem to hate the most – entrepreneurs.

It’s unclear who the brainchild behind Labor Day was. Many credit Labor Day to Peter J. McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. Others have suggested Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday. Either way, it was union officials making a big deal out of union workers.

What about all of the other American workers? Maybe we could rename it “American Dream Day” and celebrate the fact that we have the freedom choose our profession and where we work. We can choose to start our own business, to own a house and a car, to get a good education, and to move freely about the country. Yes, we can simply work for someone and enjoy the American Dream.

Let’s celebrate the American worker and the American entrepreneur, not just union workers.

Anyone can make it in this country – anyone. No excuses. You make it or you fail because of your ability, your tenacity, and how bad you want it and are willing to work for it.

I don’t celebrate the union worker; I celebrate all Americans who work hard to obtain the American Dream and “make it big,” and those who work hard to enjoy the freedoms they have here. Happy American Dream Day.

 

Joe Messina is host of The Real Side (TheRealSide.com), a nationally syndicated talk show that runs on AM-1220 KHTS radio and SCVTV [here]. He is also an elected member of the Hart School Board. His commentary normally publishes Mondays.

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1 Comment

  1. Greyling says:

    Labor Day is supposed to be about respect for American workers.

    Sadly, the only time the rightwing fringe cares about labor is on Labor Day, which Eric Cantor really wants to change to Business Owners Day instead. Here is his tweet from 2012: “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.”

    Cantor and the rightwing got a lot of grief last year for this nonsense. So this year, Joe Messina delivers the new, improved message that Labor Day is about unions. Union thugs. That tend to vote Democratic Party.

    Fifty years ago, union membership was 30 percent of the workforce; today it is 11.3 percent. But American workers do want to organize. Why haven’t they been able to?
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-23/the-real-reason-for-the-decline-of-american-unions.html

    Because beginning in the 1960s, the right pushed policies and legislation stripping workers of their rights, union bashing, cutting wages, outsourcing jobs, down-sizing, eroding labor laws and pay equity, discriminating, phasing out pensions, benefits and contracts, eliminating financial, health and safety regulations, and generally telling the American worker to go to hell.

    If workers actually had the freedom of choice Messina claims, would they tolerate this? No. No one would work at companies that don’t respect workers rights and safety laws. Those companies would go out of business. So what Messina claims clearly is not true.

    The reality for American workers is this: “According to research from the Brookings Institution, only 58 percent of Americans born into the bottom fifth of income earners move out of that category, and just 6 percent born into the bottom fifth move into the top. Economic mobility in the United States is lower than in most of Europe and lower than in all of Scandinavia.”
    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/equal-opportunity-our-national-myth/

    The right deliberately tanked the economy and outsourced jobs as a power grab. The right wants to keep workers so focused on their shaky economic future they won’t be able to notice the slow elimination of the American workplace as we knew and fought for, and the massive profits and phenomenal power corporations are amassing.

    The right wants us to think there is no exploited proletariat. Just temporarily embarrassed millionaires. The American Dream.

    Because you have to be asleep to believe it.

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