Friday, September 4, 2009

A Labor Day for the 21st Century

By Brian Miller

Every year, we celebrate Labor Day to honor the work of everyday Americans who built this country brick by brick, community by community. It’s an honorable holiday that pays tribute to honorable work.

While it’s always good to give thanks, we need much more than well wishes and a cheer of support. We need to ensure that the rules that govern our economic system, whether those rules come from Wall Street or from Washington, treat all Americans, particularly those who are the backbone of our economy, with dignity and respect. That’s what Labor Day is truly about.

From the time the first Labor Day was held, Americans understood that even what we call a “free” market still has rules that govern its actions; rules that can either work for or against the average American. That’s why they fought for a more just set of rules, a fight that ultimately led to the 40-hour workweek, the first minimum wage laws, the abolition of child labor, and workplace safety standards.

Over the last 30 years, we’ve seen the pendulum swing back the other way. While many of the victories won in those early years still stand, we’ve seen an erosion of the right of workers to organize, the weakening of worker and public safety standards, and wholesale rollback of our tax system’s more progressive elements.

All we have received in return is a shift in fortunes to the wealthiest individuals in our economy, with little or none of the promised “trickle down” for the rest of America.

Click here to read the full Op-ed