Labor Day (Charts)


1912: “Agitate-Educate-Organize”

Happy Labor Day. We say that to each other while wearing themed chef aprons over grills, see it on signs at department stores, occupy it at the beach building sandcastles while earning sunburns, or celebrating the end of summer and pretending we can’t wear white afterwards. Like most holidays we just celebrate the opportunity, if we have it, to relax and maybe spend time with family and friends. In 1887 the first Monday in September was officially established as our ode to the labor movement, thanks to the Haymarket Massacre, but in most other countries Labor Day is celebrated on the first of May, often called “May Day” or “International Workers’ Day.” Yet the nominal motivation for setting aside such a day is the same; to celebrate the socioeconomic achievements of organized labor.

The labor movement doesn’t pack as much of a punch in this country anymore, although there’s renewed energy on that front, but in general it’s been that way for quite some time.  This isn’t a new story, or even a dormant concern, but the current chapter is a point where the percentage of workers who are union members stands around 11.3 percent, and make up for only 6.6 percent of the private sector.  In that same time wages as a percentage of GDP is at a historic low:


Moreover, as the American worker has gotten more productive wages have stagnated.

This is true for all levels of education:

And the recession has been especially damaging to real median household income, and disproportionately affect racial minorities:

In short, the current state of working America is pretty abysmal. It’s a fact that, as Jason recently wrote on, seems to befuddle some of the elite. Yet it isn’t escaping the notice of those making close to minimum wage; folks who are primarily older than you think (average age of 35), most of which work full-time and nearly a third of which are trying to raise children on an hourly wage that’s less than it was in 1968.

This would be problem in better times, but in an hourglass economy it’s especially disheartening. So as you go out today to try and capture some of those Labor Day deals remember that the person at the cash register, who didn’t get today off, who is not one of the 7.2% unemployed in that job category, could use your support for a livable wage.


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