It is by now an article of faith that the AFL-CIO and their gloomy allies at the Economic Policy Institute will inevitably greet Labor Day with a grim assessment of the state of the American worker. Yet like a broken clock that is accurate twice a day, this year they may have inadvertently stumbled upon the truth. In their blog post, they point out - correctly - the persistently high rate of unemployment and the anemic rate of job creation. To be sure, this is not one of the better Labor Days for America's workers. Lest you need any confirmation beyond what you hear in your own neighborhood and workplace, here's a map that pretty dramatically shows the oppressive march of unemployment from January 2009 to today.
Yet through this gloom, employers -- working men and women all -- have persevered. As you'll see from this fact sheet, employers collectively have spent $6.5 trillion on wages and salaries and another $1.5 trillion on benefits. According to the Census Bureau, over 170 million workers receive employer-provided health care -- voluntarily - at a cost of $637 billion, a number larger than the entire GDP of the country of Turkey. Over 55% of employers with over 100 employees provide both undergraduate and graduate educational assistance to workers.
Spend some time with any group of employers - and employees - and you will hear near-heroic stories of firms large and small who have labored mightily to keep from laying off employees, by having near-idle employees doing inventory, tidying the shop or other tasks - often at great cost to themselves and their companies. The fact is that through some of the worst economic times this country has experienced, employers have stepped up, have soldiered on, have continued to provide opportunity and create wealth for some 139 million employees in the workforce. And they do this while navigating the labyrinth of new requirements on health care, looming tax increases, voracious trial lawyers and a very long wish list of items
that will make it harder and harder for them to compete.
And so on this Labor Day 2010, when there is precious little else to celebrate, we honor the employees and employers who work side-by-side every day, imbued with that unique blend of American capitalism and optimism, who "strive valiantly," as Teddy Roosevelt said, in the hopes of more prosperous Labor Days yet to come.
[Cross-posted at ChamberPost.]