Labor Day Message 2010
I’ve never been a fan of the ballet . At least not consciously. I always wondered what attracted people to that art form.
Recently, I spent a good part of a day watching the operations of an experienced tree trimming crew working high in eighty foot oak trees. After climbing to a height of about sixty feet the climber, with perfect aim, threw his lifeline over an even higher limb. With one end attached to his harness and the other being held by another man on the ground, he walked out on a six-inch diameter limb to the part of the limb that was rotted. He bent over, and with both hands on his chain saw, sawed off the limb in front of his feet. It was a performance that demonstrated balance, a knowledge of basic physics and nerve. If you asked him if you have to be brave I doubt he would have said yes. But you must have a lot of practice and, of course, you need to be in great physical shape. These are the same elements involved in being an accomplished ballet dancer. Perhaps I am a fan of the bal! let afterall.
This example is that of a very unforgiving environment. Most of us who have worked for a living do not face that degree of required discipline in which our lives are in danger if we mis-step. However, we do need to be organized and purposeful. What it takes to run a small business or work in any job involves our thoughts, energy and personal commitment. It should not matter whether you work for yourself or somebody else. There is a reward for working that goes far beyond money. Yet we know that adequate compensation is what allows us to continue. Enlightened employers, whether they are union shops or non-union shops, know this. Respect for labor is important in creating high productivity and high morale among the workers. Much is riding on this Respect, including profitability.
We live in a working environment that evolved from long hours, low pay and extremely hazardous working conditions to one where the 40 hour work week is accepted as the norm. Working conditions have often been made safer by union contract language, or by law.
Until the last decade you expected to have health insurance if you had a job. We are backsliding, and that is a concern. We know that labor unions were the impetus for much of the positive gains made by labor. But now labor unions are out of favor, and are in decline. Pay and working conditions are in decline as well. Is there a correlation? I think so, but let’s leave that argument for another time.
Today I think we should look around us and appreciate the contributions of labor and each other. People who do physical labor or invent, design, or build anything are very proud of what they produce, whether it be a bridge or an automobile. One of my brothers was a tug boat captain on the building of the Verrazano Bridge. The other was a tugboat captain on the Throgs Neck Bridge. From the bridges’ architects to the construction laborer, these people went home and told their friends and neighbors "I built that bridge". They did, indeed, build those bridges.
For all the aircraft, automobiles, great bridges and tunnels, skyscrapers, canals, railroads, recreational resorts and power plants, we thank and appreciate labor. It really does not matter how each of us have served – mechanic, engineer, laborer, accountant, contract manager, health worker, teacher, fisherman, miner , and so many others. We recognize and appreciate their and our efforts in building America.
America is ready for a Rebirth and a Rebuilding. We will do that if we have the courage and zeal of those who came before us. Have a great Labor Day, and while you are at it, appreciate what you see on your travels.