Saturday, September 2


PSoTD has tagged bloggers (including yours truly) to write about what Labor Day means to us.

Ahem. Some of my fondest memories of youth are tied up with Labor Day. I grew up on the Emerald Coast, the beach front of the Florida Panhandle. Every Labor Day my family and extended family, aunts, uncles and cousins, would go out to the beach very early and set up for a day-long picnic. The kids would swim and build sandcastles while the men set up the grill and the women got out the eats. The teenagers among us would wander down the beach hoping to spot a cute boy or girl and strike up a conversation.

After a huge meal we kids would doze (loaded up with sunblock) while we listened to the grownups' desultory talk. As I got older I'd join in the men's political discussion -- they were amused by my firebrand opposition to their southern conservative Democrat positions and loved to bait me into saying something (in their minds) outrageous. The only mentions of unions or the labor movement (remember, this was the South) might be something along the lines of how high union wages in the auto and steel industries made our cars cost so much.

When the sun got close to the horizon we'd pack up and drive back to town, tired but happy. The summer was over. It was back to school and work.

I'm a young grammy now myself, and I've been in a third-tier management role of a Fortune 200 company for some years now (third tier refers to someone who reports to someone who reports to the CEO). I'm in that murky, uncomfortable position of being close enough to the guys who make millions to know what's going on and yet so mind-boggling far from their bloated income levels that I identify more with the laborers. When I hear a right winger insist that the guys at the top deserve their fat paychecks because they are the drivers of the organization and their decisions have value that justifies $20 million annual bonuses I think about exploding like the martial arts freak at the end of Big Trouble In Little China. It's simply not true.

My company's industry has been in an upwards spiral for the past ten years and is now facing a severe downturn. What might have looked like good leadership in an environment so hot that anything we built got sold, now looks short-sighted, ill-prepared and dithering. Line employees are being told to cut costs wherever possible. The annual employee holiday gift -- a Christmas tree ornament! -- has been cut. The employee holiday party has been cancelled. The service awards banquet has been trimmed way back. They've been told that if they have a working lunch they should no longer send out for pizza on the company's dime. Yet the corporate jet will continue to operate at $14,000 per hour, flying members of the Board of Directors to each quarterly meeting. The directors' $300,000 salaries (for 4-6 days work a year) will be maintained, and we'll see what they do to trim compensation for the top executives.

Yet we celebrate a "labor day"? As I said in an earlier post, calling it that is just a sick joke. The office was only half-filled yesterday. Lots and lots of people took Friday off so they'd have a four-day weekend. But most of the secretaries were at their desks, I noticed, and the lower-echelon IT guys and other support staff and hourly workers.



Anonymous JobSearchNinja said...

"Labor was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased."

6:33 AM  

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