By Rick Manning
Labor Day is the traditional last day of summer, often celebrated by final trips to the shore and followed by public pool closings and other signs that the world is battening down the hatches for colder weather.
However what most don’t realize is that the day itself was originally created by organized labor to call attention to the contributions of workers. A public relations stunt designed to provide labor unions a focal point in their never ending battle with management.
A lot has changed for organized labor since Labor Day was federally recognized 120 years ago.
The then burgeoning movement has gained massive political power and influence across the century, only to see it decline precipitously to a point where today only 6.7 percent of the private sector workforce belong to labor unions. In fact, there are currently more union members who are public employees than in the private sector.
This transition of labor union membership from private sector to public employee dominated has massive implications for the future.
A public sector oriented union’s focus will naturally be on supporting politicians who support expanding the size and scope of government, even at the expense of the private sector workforce.
This conversion can be seen in Big Labor’s political fealty to the Democratic Party and their bigger and bigger government mantra. Today’s Big Labor supports politicians who are committed to destroying unionized mining jobs through the EPA, scoff at the value of more than ten thousand union jobs created by building the Keystone XL pipeline, and actively push for amnesty for illegal aliens who can only drive down the cost of labor hurting wages.
The days of a Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters Union endorsing Richard Nixon seem far away as labor leaders are more interested today in creating the low hanging fruit public employee union jobs rather than confronting far left politicians who are killing private sector unions through their policies.
While the United Mine Workers of America may have balked at endorsing President Obama in 2012 after his disastrous policies targeted much of their workforce for extinction, their former president, Richard Trumka, in his new role as head of the AFL-CIO continues to play the role of presidential cheerleader.
Construction unions like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers give lip service to supporting private sector jobs through projects like building the Keystone XL pipeline, yet in the lead up to the 2012 election for president, the union wrote a scathing attack on Republican nominee Mitt Romney based upon Republican Governors pushing measures that reined in public employee union power in their states.
While the piece claimed to not tell their members how to vote, it left no doubt about who the union supported, the very same guy whose administration has thrown its collective weight against the very kind of mass construction project that gives their membership work.
And that tells the whole story. On Labor Day 2014, Big Labor no longer represents the private sector workers interests, instead they have become nothing more than big government shills who put hard hats on to capture a public relations illusion from decades past.
A fitting picture for a holiday whose origins were nothing more than PR puffery in the first place.
If today’s Big Labor were caught in a fit of honesty, they would likely suggest that the day’s name be changed to Public Employee Appreciation Day. Of course, with 93 percent of the private sector workforce eschewing labor unions altogether, rather than maintaining the Big Labor fiction, it would be fitting for Congress to change the holiday’s name to “final back to school sale Monday” and call the day what it is for most Americans – nothing more or less than a practical demarcation for the end of summer.
Rick Manning is the Vice President of Communications and Public Policy for Americans for Limited Government.