Sitting in my local Panera's on this Labor Day 2014 drinking hot, dark coffee and chowing down on an asiago cheese bagel that I paid as much for as the average person just a hundred years ago earned in a month, my thoughts have turned to what has made this prosperity possible. Labor. Not organized labor, but sweat-of-the-brow, working-60-hours-a-week, American-work-ethic-in-action, desire-to-make-a-better-mousetrap, labor. Not the corrupt, thuggish, bribery-practiced, slothful- enabling, rapacious-benefit-grabbing, wealth-depleting modus operandi of organized labor.
Labor Day, as a celebration of labor, is an oxymoron. With all the beer-swilling, hot dog-eating, leisure seeking going on, it is hardly what one would call "A tribute to labor." That is why I am working this day, work being the best way to honor those who came before us who sweated, bled, and even died performing grueling manual labor that most of us in modernity would abhor at even the thought.
The manufacturing base of this country, and hence its place in the world as the most prosperous society in history, would never have occurred had organized labor been a force from the beginning. Can you imagine Thomas Edison being required by the unions to pay his assistants union wages and benefits, and limit their work weeks to no more than 40 hours. His thousand unsuccessful attempts to invent the light bulb would have ended in personal bankruptcy and the world would still be lighting its way with candles and oil lamps.
And just think if organized labor would have been around in the early 1800s when the railroad industry in the United States came from behind the rest of the world, to within two decades having a more expansive rail system than all other countries combined. Had railroad workers been given a 15 minute break every hour and full medical and dental, and wages that were twice what the market would bear, the greatest rail system in the world, including the transcontinental, would never have been built.
Even more recently, if Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the rest of the technology innovators would have had to build their businesses with the weight of the unions holding them down, I would most likely not be sitting here at a coffee shop, accessing something called the Internet on something called a laptop, and looking over at the kid next to me using something called a tablet. Their success and our benefit came at the hands of unbridled labor, unbridled by the shackles of organized labor and its overwhelming obsession with money and political power.
So even though it is a day late, I salute all those who labor for a living. May your backs and legs remain strong, your spirits remain buoyed, and your mousetrap (whatever it is) remain the best in the world.