Labor Day Observations 2021

The labor movement has been a boon to the craftsmen and craftswomen in the western world. Let’s remind ourselves of the reasons why.

The standing of labor had its fits and starts and multiple setbacks, but the sense of what fairness is has a way of persevering.

The labor practices of the bad old days are quite stark. Child labor, particularly in coal mines were a scandal of epoch proportions. The coal mine companies liked using children in mines because they were small and could crawl into the narrow veins of coal, they were also fearless of the dangers, and they were utterly powerless. We otherwise think of the labor movement as a struggle to get fair wages and benefits and of course it is that. Of equal importance, it is the establishment of deserved respect for the working people of the country.

The only wealth that is ever created is with the brains in our heads and the skill of our hands. Other than that, there is no wealth. Wall street executives, corporate leaders, lawyers, and accountants are all able to demand good compensation and they all may very well be needed in our society, but they create no wealth.

On the other hand, that crew of workers that are finishing the work on your new house created a substantial amount of wealth. Are they fairly compensated? Perhaps, but what they get is what they are able to negotiate from the general contractor or by rules of the local union.

It is interesting that those people who spoke on the behalf of labor have for the most part have been laboring people themselves. But here is an intellectual sense of equitable treatment of our fellow citizens, and that is the motivation of people such as the Roosevelts. TR Roosevelt saw the trend to monopoly as a detriment of the common citizen. His efforts to curtail monopolies created competition which had the effect of making products less expensive and more available.

Franklin Roosevelt was the champion of the working class more directly. Were these men doing these things for their own political gain? Perhaps, but those are examples of political drives that are good for the country. I am more of the mind that personal values were the larger motivating factors for them.

FDR sought dignity for working people by having them create durable infrastructure such as the two draw bridges that were built in my childhood neighborhood on Jamaica Bay. They built very durable post office buildings as well as a number of other federal building projects. That is not all. Writers were employed to write plays and artists were asked to paint pictures depicting moments in American history in federally owned post offices. Young men were sent into the countryside to plant trees.

The point of these efforts was the recognition that there is dignity in work. We sometimes hear people speak about work as something to be avoided, it is not, it is something to be embraced, with the understanding that work should be properly compensated.

The closing point is there is dignity in work-all work. Enjoy your Labor Day.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta

On Friday 13th we had as our guest speaker Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. Mr. Trotta was quite direct in his opinions of the local government.

He was critical of the way we are paying dearly for our police department in the county. He does not approve policeman earning $200k or $250k per year. He does not approve of the payout practices of the police department at retirement that can be in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lump sum in addition to a generous pension.

Of course the payouts are legal because they are in the union contracts and the contracts are approved by the legislating body of which he is a member.
Here is Trotta’s bone of contention. If the unions are allowed to donate to the campaign war chests of the legislators, how can we be sure that they, the legislators, are acting in the public interest?
Trotta’s approach is that if any funds are provided to a legislator, than that legislator must recuse himself on votes on pay increases. The bill to enforce such a rule has been consistently rejected
Despite these criticisms he was otherwise complimentary of the police in terms of competence.

Another issue that he addressed was the ¼% tax on the sewer district that has been paid off, but still collected to pay for other things. For this a few other things he referred to County Executive Bellone as corrupt.
One of those things were the scandal involving District attorney Spota, who, by the way, was sentenced to 5 years in prison last week. Bellone, according to Mr. Trotta, was in cahoots with the principals of that scandal, Thomas Spota, and Christopher McPartland, who conspired to protect James Burke, who was earlier sentenced to 4 years in prison for beating a prisoner.

Trotta did not dodge and weave, he answered the questions according to his knowledge and perceptions.