By Daniel Downs
The history of Labor Day begins in the late 1800s. During this period, labor unions arose to defend American workers against systemic injustice. Unions empowered workers to fight for safe and humane working conditions and for livable wages. The success of the unions what the Labor Day is all about.
Thus celebrating the American worker is the collective expression of triumphant labor union socialism.
Labor union socialism was fueled by the rise of mass production factories, low wage labor, and unjust working conditions. Although socialism was not a necessary way to resolve conflict between management and workers, it was the means federal courts and some state officials supported. Thus, Labor Day is the continued celebration of the victory of workers over corporate bureaucrats.
How has the victory of labor union socialism benefited American workers? The direct and indirect results of unionization include minimum wage, child labor laws, worker safety laws, overtime pay, holiday pay, vacation pay, flex-time, and similar developments. Union politicians are still attempting to make health insurance mandatory as well.
Unionization of labor also has caused Americans some losses. Because unionization excludes non-members, low-wage labor has been maintained. It’s rationalized under the labor market. It’s obvious that some jobs are more productive and contribute more value to a company’s product and service. For example engineering design new products, manufacturing make those products, and sales convince people to buy them. Such jobs are more profitable than maintenance, data entry, or customer service. The demand for certain job skills over others makes those job skills more valuable. Therefore, jobs requiring high demand skills pay more than those in less demand. The same applies to products and services. Therefore pay scale often reflects those market values.
The primary source of operating finance for corporations is the sale of stocks and bonds. Yet, this method of operational finance diminishes the overall value of labor. It is the result of the liability to investors. Another way to look at it, businesses must payback their loans with interest to their lenders, which happen to be investment bankers, stock market traders, and other investors.
A predominate group of early Americans, Thomas Jefferson included, regarded that form of corporate finance as a leech sucking the financial life out of American workers. That group of early Americans attempted to limit legislative representation to agricultural entrepreneurs, industrial craftsmen (machinist, foundry, blacksmiths, etc), merchants, and …. They believed only natural labor and those that served them actually promoted the common good of all. Corporations were regarded as quasi-government institutions and investors as non-laborers. They simply used money of others to make more money which in turn took more money from those whose labor added to the productivity of all.
Nevertheless, the Hamiltonians eventual succeeded in making bankers and investors a class represented in government.
The underlying principle of the value and rights of workers is found in natural law. The product labor belongs exclusively to the worker, not to government or anyone else. That is also why natural labor was also tied the value of owning property, because it was the means of production. Labor added value to productive property, according to natural law. This product of labor to property belonged solely to the laborer and conferred property rights to him or her. A property deed originally was an official recognition of productive use of property. Whether the value added was by planting crops, vineyards, raising animals, or building a house and barns, the land, the produce, any trade were summed up under property rights and a deed secured those recognized rights.
Labor unions have been counterproductive. They employ an ideology contrary to natural law embraced by our founders. Labor union’s victory undermined what should have been achieved by application of law. The reality produced has been a conflict between worker and management, between laborer and laborer, and between citizens.
Thomas Jefferson wanted all Americans workers to earn a livable wage. Actually, Jefferson used high wages meaning able to enjoy financial independence and enough leisure to cultivate or maintain moral character and cultural skills as well as enjoy one’s social relations. Being dependents of corporate and government bureaucracies was not part of the plan.
In a society in which all are mostly dependents of corporations, unions, and government, many workers have lost their natural property rights. Labor Day will never be meaningful of the American worker until they regain the right to their product of their labor. As Thomas Jefferson put it, low wage labor is slave labor. If one’s labor does not produce ownership of the bare necessities of life like food, clothing, and transportation as well as ownership of one’s home secure from theft by criminals and government, then Labor Day is more a mockery of the American worker. It remains an allusion perpetuated by self-ingratiated elites and their talking heads.