Do you ever feel guilty going shopping on Labor Day? I do. Pushing through throngs of people; just another of the mindless consumer cattle in search of a bargain for some cheaply made textile or electronics. Upon having our fill, quickly shoving up to the nearest counter, plopping down our goods and avoiding eye contact and conversation with the person on the other side. Spare me the conversation, we just want to pay for our stuff, and get the hell out. All the while, we are missing the blatant irony of making this purchase on Labor Day.
More often than not, the products Americans are mindlessly buying are made overseas with ridiculously cheap labor. Chances are, your Labor Day spending spree is not supporting American workers. Sure, you’re spending your hard earned money at stores here in America, thereby keeping those behind the cash register employed, but your not supporting an American industry. The “service industry” is devoid of substance. It is product free. Furthermore, the share of those Labor Day purchases that actually go towards paying those ringing you up or taking your order, or giving them health insurance (or lack thereof), or potential wage increases, is little to none. Where do all your hard earned dollars go? Right into the coffers of the multi-national corporations that exploit cheap labor and take away decent paying jobs in America. Corporations that fight against wage increases, that fight against providing health care, that fight against living wages. That’s where. Retail, food service and hospitality sectors, are just a few of the major economic sectors that treat Labor Day as just another Profit Day, exploiting faux patriotism along the way.
The fact of the matter is, real wages for the average American middle class worker has lagged so much over the last 30 years that it is virtually stagnant compared to the gross increases in corporate wealth.
Labor Day began as a commemoration of the progress made by labor unions to protect the rights and wages of every day, middle class workers. When did Labor Day become synonymous in most American’s minds with nothing more than an extra beach day and a good day for shopping deals? So many Americans are ignorant of the history behind this holiday. It’s sad. Even sadder, can you imagine a holiday like Labor Day being created in today’s political climate? Anyone supporting such an idea today would undoubtedly be accused of being a Socialist! I can just hear Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh now. It doesn’t help that the corporations pretty much own all of our elected leaders, in one way or another.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking to yourself, “But what can I do about it?!”. Talk is cheap, as I all too often experience. Actions are important. So how do you use the consumerist system against itself? You don’t consume. I for one will not be spending any money on Labor Day, at least not at any corporately owned stores. I try to make that a daily practice anyway, but tomorrow I am going to be especially cognizant of it. Sure, you could go even further and petition your company to allow you to unionize. The reality is very few people have the will or stomachs to do such a thing. So, if you do one thing this Labor Day to commemorate the sacrifice and honor of the American worker, don’t buy into the corporations that exploit them.
And if you want six things to help boost American labor this Labor Day, Robert Reich has you covered: