Labor Day became an official federal holiday in 1894. It was created to honor the American labor movement and the strength that comes from collective action taken by workers. Workers are crucial for the success of any society. This message was sadly taken for granted and greedy oligarchs started hoarding wealth creating income inequality levels impossible to maintain. Lapses in common sense led to the crash of the stock market and the Great Depression. It was caused by not remembering to put workers first.
The Great Depression
With income inequality levels skyrocketing the wealthy began to stockpile money while workers fell farther behind and deeper in debt. On “Black Thursday”, October 24, 1929 the stock market crashed. By 1933 nearly 25% of the Nation’s total workforce were unemployed. Mills and mines were abandoned. Massive factories were shuttered. American business and workers were in peril of a total collapse. Then Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the office of President and sweeping changes were made that saved the country.
How They Did It
The “New Deal” series of programs were implemented, signifying a new relationship between the American people and our government. New federal agencies were adopted to create jobs and opportunities for workers. Social Security, unemployment insurance and other programs were realized to help those dealing with the economic hardships. The focus on jobs and putting workers first helped America pull itself out of the depths we had reached. There are those who will point to World War II as what saved the economy. While you certainly cannot ignore the impact it had, without those provisions put in place beforehand we would not have been prepared and able to move forward.
Why We Are In Danger Again
We have forgotten the threat of what can happen when the gap between the haves and the have nots stretches too wide. Income inequality levels have only been as high as they currently are before the Great Depression. Greedy individuals and mega-corporations have again lobbied to create legislation that enrich the wealthy and disenfranchise the middle-class workers who toil every day. The supply side, trickle down economics embraced in the early 80s are failing this Nation. It creates an inverse pyramid with all the money going to the top 1%. It is only a matter of time before that weight becomes too much and it all collapses again. Money does not trickle down. It goes up, and it is not a trickle – it is a roaring flow.
How We Fix It
We need to go back to putting workers first. Make stock buy backs illegal as they were before 1982. Eliminate Right to Work and other anti-labor laws designed to weaken our ability to collectively bargain. Abolish Citizens United to remove the dark money which has a stranglehold on our democracy. Fix the broken tax system that is rigged to cater to mega-corporations that care nothing for the success of our great country. It is time we demand better of our elected officials. It is no longer acceptable to simply talk about helping American workers. Our leaders need to show their commitment to labor with their votes by introducing and implementing pro-worker legislation. Every day should be Labor Day. They must put American Workers First.