My father was a Teamster for 15 years. I grew up in a working-class household.
And I don’t believe the propaganda for a second.
“The Weekend: Brought to You by Labor Unions,” reads the bumper sticker.
I see. So those Third World countries looking to escape poverty and enjoy additional leisure just need … some labor unions?
(What’s the point of foreign aid, then?)
Until society grows wealthy enough, all the labor unions in the world can’t make it possible to take two days a week off from work.
Can you imagine, in the primitive economies of 300 years ago, agitating for a shorter work week? People would have thought you insane.
With little capital, and with most goods produced by hand, it takes all the labor power all the hours it can spare just to make life barely livable.
That’s why people worked long hours in terrible conditions in the past (and why they do in the Third World today). Not because short men with white mustaches and a monocle took delight in oppressing them.
What emancipated people from these dehumanizing conditions was capital goods. With workers vastly more productive than before, thanks to the assistance of machines, physical output was multiplied in quantity and quality many, many times over. This greater abundance put downward pressure on prices relative to wage rates, and people’s standard of living rose.
At that time they opted for more leisure and more pleasant working conditions rather than more cash.
But if you ask people who work in sweatshops today if they’d prefer to have (1) more pleasant conditions (or fewer working hours) but (2) less take-home pay, they overwhelmingly say no.
Professor Ben Powell of Texas Tech University actually bothered to ask. And 90+% of them said that regardless of what Western do-gooders thought they should want, they wanted the money.
Meanwhile, American workers had the eight-hour-day well before their much more heavily unionized counterparts in Europe did, and they earned higher wages. Unionism never accounted for more than a third of the American labor force, and that was at its height.
So whatever your kids’ teachers are crediting unions for, just roll your eyes.
Given that I have worked every day (not merely weekdays) since the pandemic began, and I have worked every Labor Day since my return to the weekly newspaper world, Labor Day is just another day of labor for me. I’d prefer Constitution Day, Sept. 17, to be a national holiday.