I sit here on Labor Day 2015 writing my thoughts about what I am thankful for and how can I not be thankful for the laborers that make up this great nation. Historically, of course, but even in the present our lives would be drastically different if it wasn’t for all those who get up each day and clock in and clock out to keep the world’s greatest economy going.
Labor Day! A holiday that as a child I never really understood beyond it being the end of summer, a three-day weekend, and the start of school. I always had mixed feelings about it. As an adult I’ve learned to understand its importance and, I gotta say, I am thankful for it.
Though not very popular these days, if evidenced only by declining membership, Labor Unions had a tremendous positive influence on the incomes, safety, and status of millions of Americans. My grandfather worked at Chrysler in Detroit at the beginning of the Union movement and his rise to the middle class was directly attributable to it. That led to greater opportunities for my parents and eventually for me. It showed us that hard work could pay off and improving one’s station and status in life was not only for the privileged.
I believe there are lessons about teamwork to be learned from unions. How can we work together to achieve mutual goals? By together I mean two things. If there are opposing views on any subject, the opposing parties have to get together and find common ground. Creating an atmosphere of distrust and loathing will never accomplish anything. Finding that common ground and compromising to reach agreements is the only way we’ll get close to our individual goals. Each side may need to give up something to get something. It is not likely that each side will get everything they want, so getting to shared objectives has got to be the goal.
And there are plenty of things we need to negotiate win-win deals on. We (all of us) need to fix our health care system. We need to have smart but realistic goals for banking oversight. We need to protect our environment while being allowed to utilize our natural resources. And regulation of all industries in general needs to accomplish good for the masses, but not stunt growth or be onerous.
There is a lot of work to do and we have to do it together. The second “together” is what unions do. They organize people (workers) into groups (unions) to have the strength of numbers and to speak as one voice. That is what we need to do. Those of us who feel a similar way about issues or objectives need to organize as a club, church, not-for-profit entity, political party, or just a group of concerned citizens. As one voice speaking for hundreds or thousands we can then have more influence over the discussion and get more of what we want in the quest for mutual goals, common ground, and shared objectives.
No one will get everything they want. We will need to meet somewhere in the middle to make our country great. Together.
So, for month #11 on this Labor Day 2015 I am thankful for Labor Day, all the workers across our nation, and for the lessons Labor Unions teach us and the opportunities they afford their members.
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