Today is the celebration of Labor Day in the USA. It is noteworthy because, in most places, it is the last day of the swimming season. Starting tomorrow, the public pools will be closed.
It is also worth celebrating because of its value to old people, who can say, “Good grief, in my day we didn’t start school until after Labor Day, and now they start in August, or July, even. Soon there won’t be any vacation from school at all.”
Old people don’t know it, but “soon” is already here. Even young people don’t realize how soon “soon” is coming, and not just because of year-around schooling.
Labor Day was originally a day to celebrate the achievements of the Labor Union movement—such as the 8 hour workday, the end to child labor, safety regulations, health insurance, paid vacations, overtime pay for overtime work. In many sectors of the economy, those are now hollow celebrations, as pensions, health insurance, safety regulations, minimum wages, and overtime pay are being eroded.
“Soon,” though means that there are not enough jobs to go around. Robots and computers and AI [artificial intelligence] are replacing people. Companies like Caterpillar have stated publicly that their goal is to have no human workers at all, everything done by robots.
The great achievement of the Labor Union movement was not pensions and the like, but respect, respect for laborers as an important part of the economic system. In a capitalist system, it’s easy to lose sight of that. The owner of Papajohn’s pizza has famously said that he should not have to share the fabulously wealthy profits from his business with his workers, like paying a decent wage, because “they don’t contribute anything to its success.”
Yes, adequate pay, and health care, and pensions, all those things are important, but the most important thing of all in working is respect, not just by others, but self-respect. We need to feel that we are making a contribution to the society with our work, that what we are doing is important, even if it’s baking pizzas.
If there are no jobs, there is no respect. Also, there won’t be any customers, even for pizza.
Katie Kennedy is the rising star in YA lit. [She is also our daughter.] She is published by Bloomsbury, which also publishes lesser authors, like JK Rowling. Her latest book is, What Goes Up. It’s published in hardback, paperback, audio, and electronic, from B&N, Amazon, etc.