For most of us, Labor Day means the end of the summer, time to pack up the barbecue and the pool toys, put the tiki lamps in storage and break out the fall decorations. But its real purpose is to honor those who make our society possible. To say “thank you” to those who keep it all running. Originally it was for the factory workers, but I want to shine a light on the employers this Labor Day also.
The world sees employers in a love/hate fashion. On the one hand they are crucial to the system, they are the source of income for most people. They are the providers for the many.
On the other hand, employers are the source of the world’s sorrows, and people wonder why we need them. They fail to see the crucial role that an employer plays in the circle of life. These people want to have goods provided for them, and have vacation time. They want health insurance for all, but don’t see why people should have to work low-paying, unskilled jobs.
There are those who see only exploitation of the worker, and those who see only the potential for profit. The nearsightedness of these two opposing views is what allows for the sad state of our political system. We have a two-party system that has broken down into “greedy corporations” on the one side — Republicans — and “socialist labor sympathizing sickos” on the other — Democrats.
It’s important to recognize employees and their contributions to the society we live in. Without employees, no business would survive. Even the self-employed are employees of their own companies, and generally they work harder than anyone.
If it were not for the employees of the world, the computer I write on would not exist. No individual man would likely have the skills, knowledge and abilities to build this computer by himself, for my purchase, at any price. It is only through the cooperative efforts of many that I am able to sit down and hit keys that become electronic letters that are then turned into a column, which is printed by others, on machines made by yet more people, on paper manufactured by an even larger group of people.
There are literally thousands who are responsible for the words on the paper you are reading. The collective effort of these people is what has allowed our society to grow. We have information literally at our fingertips, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, thanks to employees.
Men and women work all shifts during the day to provide for people they don’t know, and will never meet. The capitalist society we live in is run on the concept of profit. Who would work at a late night café, pouring coffee for drunks and college students, (frequently the same thing) if there were not something in it for them? Granted, they are probably making minimum wage, plus tips, but that is a profit. It may not be a huge profit, but few companies in actuality make huge profits.
Labor Day is about profit. It is profit for the worker and for the employer that keeps the system operating. If an employer cannot make a profit, he will soon be out of business, as evidenced by General Motors this year, and that means the employees will be out of a job. The interests of the employee are linked in a life and death struggle with the employer in this way.
This is a hard concept for many people, especially those who want to limit the profits that a company can earn. They say it is immoral for some companies to make huge profits. The petroleum companies have been reporting astronomical profits in the past few years. Health insurance companies are making immense profits and at the same time they are cutting services and increasing premiums — that’s why they are making bigger profits.
And as annoying as it is to read that Anthem makes a huge profit while denying life-saving treatments to teens, we must keep in mind that they are employing thousands of people. People who have teens themselves who get treatment, and homes, and the necessities of life because their parents are working for a health insurance company that is making money.
Employees depend on the checks written to them being negotiable at the bank. The money must be there when they need it so that they can pay their nanny, to provide care for their children. There are those who would say that the level of profits should be reduced so that more people could have our services. But these people are not the ones who invested the money, who worked late nights getting the presentations ready for the salesmen, who make the company profitable.
I’ve always found it curious that those who most condemn employers have never actually been one. The people who champion the rights of the worker the hardest, and bemoan the profits of the employer the loudest, have never actually had it all on the line. They have not spent sleepless nights wondering how they were going to make payroll.
It is important to remember, and honor, labor this coming weekend. But let’s remember that the boss is also part of the equation. You can’t have one without the other, and they both make society operate.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.