By Tom Ehrich
If work were compensated according to its value to society, trash haulers would earn bigtime and bankers would earn less. Schoolteachers would earn more than administrators and way more than attorneys.
Those who assemble cars would earn more than those who design them. Nurses, ER docs and first-responders would earn more than Big Pharma executives. Hospice staff would earn more than the Big Tobacco executives who dispensed cancer-sticks. Plumbers would earn more than hedge fund managers. And so it would go.
Labor Day, of course, is our annual reminder that we don’t live in a just and rational world. We live in a world where the ownership class lords it over those whose backs, hands, imaginations and minds actually create wealth. Labor Day exists as a celebration of organized labor, which the right wing excoriates as socialist, communist, and welfare for the lazy, but in fact are the ones building the nation. And the ones fighting its wars. And the ones paying its taxes.
A healthy system needs all of us, owners and workers, those amassing capital for factory construction and those working in those factories and those selling its products and those buying those products. We don’t live in such a system, where all are appreciated and treated fairly. Greed has run the table.
Some religious folks will fuss about Labor Day being called a “holiday,” because it isn’t actually a “holy-day.” I disagree. If any holiday could catch the imagination of Jesus, it would be Labor Day. For workers and the one-down were his constituency. The wealthy had no need for him. In fact, they resented him.
An estimated two-thirds of Jesus’ teaching were about wealth and power. A holiday that honors rank-and-file workers and calls the owner class to account is exactly what Jesus had in mind.