Special Editorial: Labor Day Musings 2012

In Editorial on September 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm

The Good

Americans are a hardworking, “keep your nose to the grindstone” people.

Compared to workers in most European countries, Americans spend much more time on the job. They also enjoy fewer creature comfort perks, compensated time off, and typically report being less “happy” than workers in Britain, Germany, France, and Sweden.

Ironically, we complain a lot about customer service and the visible lack of concern many workers show for clients, once the sale has been made. In fact, many workers in American service industries have adopted a downright, surly demeanor that is reminiscent of shop clerks and public servants back in the good ‘ole USSR.

In many ways, how can we blame them?

The Bad

Employers seldom get to know their workers. They know their names, but they seldom get to know a worker beyond a “team member”, arms length professional distance. The worst of these employers only see labor as a dollar-sucking line item. The very worst of them see their workers as little more than a machine. When one machine quits or wears out, the employer sends out a desperate call to, “Bring me another (fill in the blank) machine.”

“Retention”, for this kind of employer, only refers to their portion of the funds generated by the business.

We no longer need to look at America’s cubicle farms as the “dark, satanic mills” of today. Small business has taken to emulate big business  by adopting its impersonal and emotionally stunted HR-Speak

Staffers no longer “speak to each other”. Instead, they “interface”. A job is not demanding or multifaceted, it is one where the employee must “multitask”. Company picnics are no longer places where bosses, with corn in their teeth, mingle with employees who have corn in their teeth. Social interaction is now called, “networking”. Face it, folks. These are all terms co-opted from computer programming…you know, “machines”?

Many bosses and managers disdain social interaction with their workers because the employee does not represent a chance to sell or promote their business to their peers. This is their loss.

The loss of humanity in the workplace is a tremendous loss for bosses and workers alike.

The Ugly

When Labor Day was first proposed, in 1894, the holiday was to set aside a day for the worker. (NOTE: Much of the motivation for celebrating workers came from Europe and Russia, where worker’s movements eventually became the horror of state socialism.)

Where are the fry cooks, retail clerks, mop-men, and other non-government workers?

Today, we are deluged with tomes celebrating the “worker”, typically cited as “the teacher, the police officer, the firefighter, the nurse, etc.” who toil while “the rest of us are off with our families”.


Teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses, etc. are all well compensated, usually via union-negotiated contracts, and get “premium pay” for working on Labor Day.

We hear nothing…NOTHING…about the minimum wage wage-slaves grinding the holiday away as fast food workers and retail workers and, for who the day is just like any other.

(NOTE: Phyne Dyner has long vowed not to eat out or engage in retail buying on Labor Day. Every worker deserves a day off in recognition of their contributions to making their employer a success. Not only that, the day should be paid for the worker. What holiday is a “holiday” when it results in a short check for the week?)

The Really, REALLY Ugly

According to a recently released report by the Iowa Policy Institute, lower income Iowa workers are cheated (unpaid or underpaid) by their employers to the tune of $600 million dollars annually!

Typically, the wage losses result from manipulation by the employer where statutory workers are illegally called “contract” workers by the employer. Overtime laws are skirted by mislabeling a regular worker to be a “white collar” worker who is exempt from overtime laws.

The worst of the worst abuse and underpay the very workers who can least afford to have a short paycheck.

It is a recipe to create state socialism.

It is shortsighted for any employer to underpay a worker. The animosity it breeds is not worth the savings. An angry, abused worker will typically cry out to the only “savior” he knows…the state. The state then responds with a sledgehammer, instead of a scalpel.

As a libertarian socialist, I am amazed that employers would deliberately mistreat and underpay their workers. Would they not be upset if a client took off with some of their product without paying for it?

Ironically, the people who bitch the loudest about “gubmint interference” are those whose actions virtually assure that the worker will create a “savior state”, uber-conservative small business owners.

Here’s a test:

Want to find out if your employer would cheat you?

Look for the “mandatory” wage and hour signs in your workplace. If they are missing, the employer is deliberately hoping you don’t know your rights under the law.

The signs are innocuous. Despite being “mandatory”, I can find no case where an employer was fined, jailed, or otherwise inconvenienced for failing to put up the sign.

The signs are virtually free. You can buy them for an exorbitant price, or you can download them and print them yourself.

If an employer cannot take a measure that is free and innocuous, you can count on them to screw you over if they can. These are the folks that piss off the Phyne Dyner beyond measure.

The Libertarian-Socialist Response

These pseudo-libertarians substantiate cries that libertarianism “won’t work”. They see themselves as “pro-liberty” but are worse than the statists they claim to despise. They are pro-liberty for themselves…screw everyone else.

The true libertarian cares as deeply for someone else’s rights, as he does for his own. A true libertarian does not allow injustice upon folks who “don’t know better” and then assuage their guilt by saying, “It’s not my fault they didn’t know better.”

The libertarian-socialist response?

We oppose minimum wage laws. We oppose overtime laws. We oppose laws that mandate how people should treat their workers.

We should do those things, not because it is illegal to abuse a worker. We should do those things because we would not to be abused if we were the worker.

Happy Labor Day from Phyne Dyning!



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