The US Department of Labor explains that Labor Day is celebrated annually on the first Monday in September and is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers… and the
As I write this, two million people from Texas to Alabama along the Gulf are settling in for the night somewhere other than home. State and federal efforts to evacuate the region and not repeat the unconscionable nightmare of Hurricane Katrina seem to have so far been successful; those who were physically or financially unable to get out under their own steam were apparently dispatched in a decent manner. But as this AP photo of Gustav evacuees in a shelter in Tyler, Texas shows, the displacement for many is still hard going, and what people will return to when it’s over, nobody knows.
Unfortunately, the millions uprooted by Gustav, most of whom are American workers, are not the only American workers who won’t be going to work on Tuesday. Per thinkprogress.org, the country lost 51,000 jobs in July and the unemployment rate (a misleading figure to begin with) rose to 5.7% from 5.5%, which is the highest rate since March, 2004 and the seventh consecutive month of job losses for a 2008 total to date of 463,000.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are nearly nine million unemployed Americans – but that number doesn’t reflect those persons no longer receiving Unemployment Insurance; those in the military (many of whom have no civilian jobs to come home to); those working one or more part-time jobs and barely making ends meet; high school and college kids who need part-time jobs and can’t find them; the retired and disabled on inadequate fixed incomes; or those who have full-time jobs acquired in recent years that provide a fraction of the salary and benefits of their old, longstanding jobs, the ones that were downsized through corporate mergers/bankruptcies or outsourced overseas.
Fewer people will be shopping this Labor Day and those who do will be buying less and making every effort to pay the cheapest prices possible. Huge problems, and a great many of them, face America on this election year Labor Day, but none so urgent as the wholesale under-employment and outrageously increased financial difficulty (if not outright poverty) of the vast majority of Americans. We are not contributing nearly as much strength, prosperity and well-being to our country as we want and need to.