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Micks Corner

Labor Day Holiday Message

Mick Fleming on Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 4:27:49 pm

Labor Day

Labor (verb, noun, or proper noun): Definitions includes, but not limited to:

  • Expenditure of physical or mental effort especially when difficult or compulsory
  • To suffer from distress or a disadvantage

Sound like a chamber professional's day? 

Of course, there's "labor" and then there's "Labor."  When the idea of a day celebrating and recognizing the American worker, the "labor" in Labor Day referred most to the organized, capital "L" meaning of the word.  With only 13% of workers employed in union jobs, Americans have understandably turned the first Monday of September into a day for most of us who labor (not retail, entertainment, public safety, military, hospital, parenting) to take an end-of-summer day off.  A good thing at the right time in the calendar.  As I always say as we start a football season and ACCE program cycle - HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Below:  A Labor Day memory for those with too much time on their hands:

My father was a proud "Kennedy Democrat" . . . a Buffalo lawyer/professor/advocate for everyone getting screwed.  With a guy like Bob Fleming as my personal hero (always will be) I had what many conservative chamber execs would consider a harrowing upbringing!

One Saturday during my "tween" years, my Dad and I were doing errands and had to drop off some clothes at the cleaners.  As we drove past the drycleaner a block away from the house, I asked why we always drove half-way across town with our clothes.  He answered quickly.  [Paraphrasing] "Because those guys are part of a chain that treats their workers like dirt.  The job is hot and dangerous with lousy hours.  They're in court accused of shorting paychecks and using illegal tactics to prevent a union.  I won't go to that place, ever."  Let's just say that statement had an impact on my choice of drycleaners.

Since that time, I've learned a lot more about how business and the employer-employee relationship works.  I learned that boycotts can hurt the people you might want to help.  I discovered that it's pretty hard to have employment without employers - and the survival of many (most) private-sector employers is very tenuous. I've changed, becoming aware and empathetic toward the people who create jobs and make payroll (like me).  I still, however, can't be friendly or knowingly do business with an owner or boss who treats employees badly.  Even in my most conservative days, as head of a manufacturers' association, I couldn't do it.  Bob wouldn't let me.

Americans remain the most productive workforce in the world.  It's not a Labor Day platitude; it's a fact.  Remember that it will be our human resources that will craft the next great story of American resiliency.  Certainly innovation, calculated investment and inspired leadership will be required, but labor -- "expenditure of physical and mental effort" -- by good people like your staff and your members' employees  . . . will make the dreams of recovery a reality. 

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