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Remember those who reformed unfair labor conditions

To the Editor:
The last holiday of the summer, the beginning of the school session, the last “hurrah” for summer activities — is this what Labor Day means to you?
To some of us, those of us who have lived enough to have a history with the labor movement, it is much more than that. You all like your coffee breaks, your 40-hour work week, your benefits of sick leave, vacation time, family leave, health insurance coverage, unemployment compensation, retirement benefits and protection in the workplace for safety, working conditions and unreasonable termination of employment without recourse. These are the things you have come to expect as part of your employment.
Like our freedoms, all these things came at a price which was paid by the laborers who came before us. Things have not always been the rosy picture that we now have of the workplace.
Even as a child, I vividly recall the tales of firing workers who tried to organize to gain these benefits – or even fairness! If you are at all a student of history, you know there were sweat shops, child labor abuses, and unsafe working conditions. Children’s educations were interrupted because the parents needed them to go to work to support the family.
Certainly, this was a short-sighted approach to economic sustainability. Fortunately, for this generation, it is a little more enlightened, thanks to the mandatory education of the next generation.
Politicians and big business have a way of denigrating the unions of workers and the things that have been accomplished by these organizations. The “right-to-work” states are not in the best interest of the people. This means hire and fire at will, brutal and unsafe working conditions and low wages that do not make a living.
So, what do the people do to survive? The answer is subsidized by food shelves, governmental aid and charitable organizations — there are two mighty corporations that do just that on a regular basis —and get tax breaks! What?
The union workers who were paid a good wage were the driving force of the middle class in this country. They provided educations for their children in the hopes that the next generation would do better than the one before.
Because of the recent plateau of the wages of the working public, chances are the next generation will not be as prosperous. Lack of money in the pocket means no one spends on things other than survival.
So the vicious cycle of economic slow down begins. Austerity does not work. Economists keep telling us that — only some of us listen.
Next Labor Day, as you are pulling in the dock for the winter, remember just a little with gratitude the labor force that produced the world we live in — I know I am grateful.
Jan Conner
Hutchinson