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A Third Way for Labor Day

Every Labor Day I'm confronted by the same nagging notion about the state of labor in our country and wondering why folks generally appear to be hostile collective bargaining, i.e. unions.

We may acknowledge that we want to pay our teachers fairly, yet we hate it when they threaten to strike. We judge our firefighters, utility workers, nurses, grocery workers and the like when they strike, for after all, they should be grateful they have a job? Besides they’re being paid more than I am! And what do janitors need a union for…they’re just janitors (try going into the office after a week of no cleaning…stay out of the men’s room!)

Is it because our college degrees make us feel elite in some way? Or have we become so accustomed to seeing faces unlike our own cutting our lawns, building our buildings, caring for our parents, repairing our streets, that we now believe such work is beneath us? Are we really so far removed from getting our hands dirty that we think “work” is now beneath us? Or beneath our children?

This weekend is Labor Day. 40 years ago there would be parades of machinists, autoworkers, carpenters and electricians, cameramen and craft workers from the studios- every family had a connection to labor- often in our own homes.

We honored those who labored then. Our communities did not just survive- they thrived! Our communities prospered as we together rode the rising tide of prosperity of the Labor Force. Prospering! Not because of Fat Cats trickling down manna from on high- but because American workers- courageous men and women of the 1930’s who made their voices known the only way they had left. They sat. They struck. They absorbed the violence visited upon them-sometimes in death! And they demanded for all of us a fair share of the pie they help to create with their sweat, hard work and determination, as the pride of the American worker. It seems Labor Day today has been diminished to just a paid holiday with a weenie roast by the swimming pool! Can we take some time to think about the American worker this year?

It’s time to recognize the benefit that all of us have received by organized labor. Even if we are not union members, union scale is the gold standard by which all other workers are compensated. Teachers, nurses, airline pilots, carpenters, think about it- any worker- even so called professionals (are you listening HMO MD’s)- are affected in their compensation as an effect of collective barging at some level.

It’s time to recognize that the ‘rising tide that lifts all boats’ must come from the American worker/consumer and not the unenlightened self-interest of an enriched few. It’s simply not sustainable. It does not create a world that works for everyone. It does not promote innovation or creativity. Instead it looks like a big money grab where chasing dollars is a new multi-national religion. No ethics. No moral code. Just the ‘good of the stockholder’ where no one person is responsible and yet at the same time decision makers are cleansed in the sunlight of the spirit of making money. It insults our intelligence!

Imagine a Third Way! Call it ‘Conscious Capitalism’ if you like.

This Third Way is longing to burst forth and emerge as a society that works for everyone.

A Third Way that transcends the current business as usual to a Way that respects worker and management concerns. A Third Way that recognizes the needs of the share holders.

A Third Way that supports and honors the wisdom and creativity of older workers. A Third Way that acknowledges the inherent dignity of all workers at every level of the organizational chart.

Do we have the courage to step away from our entrenched thinking? Can we step away from the fear the bogeyman of what may happen, and into the Power of what absolutely will happen when we embrace for all, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” by means of our chosen vocations. The commitment to creativity and innovation are out there. I KNOW there is!

Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffet and other captains of industry appear to be ready for a new conversation…are we? Can we together build a Third Way that creates a world that works? For everyone? I KNOW we can! It's what we have been called to do. It's what we've been born-at this time-to do. Let's get to work!

I paraphrase what the poet Rumi once said, “There is a Field of Infinite Possibilities for Good! I will meet you there!

Happy Labor Day!

In Love and Respect! mc


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