Labor Day, a creation of the labor movement and a federal holiday enacted into law in 1894, is observed on the first Monday in September as a national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. On March 4, 1913. On that day, President William Howard Taft—on his last day in office—reluctantly signed legislation creating the U.S. Department of Labor and giving workers a direct seat in the President's Cabinet for the first time.
For the Hispanic community, this year's Labor Day 2016 continues to have a special significance because President Barack Obama, with the consent of the U.S. Senate, appointed both the current U.S. Secretary of Labor, the Honorable Tom Perez (Dominican-American) as well as his predecesor, the Honorable Hilda Solis, the first Hispanic woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet.
Labor Secretaries Perez and Solis' tenures have been marked by a record-breaking, long-standing recession that seems to improve by fits and starts as well as a historically high and intractable unemployment in several sectors of the economy not seen since the Great Depression.
The MAHCC believes that these sobering circumstances provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the importance for companies to foster innovation that leads to job creation at home and business expansion abroad; on the critical need to correct the supply-and-demand imbalance in the labor market by improving public education starting with a comprehensive, performance-driven, national pre-kindergarten program, and developing a technologically savvy workforce that is capable of competing at a global level; and on the need for building and maintaining state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, improving labor-management relations and tempering unrealistic expectations about what the contributions of each other should be.
On the other hand, the Federal Government should do its part as well by streamlining regulations and simplifying the tax code. Finally, it is also incumbent for all of us to renew our commitment and to redouble our efforts to regain world preeminence as exporters, not just as consumers hungry for products manufactured overseas. Where is our national pride when the slogan "Buy American Made Products" have become the equivalent of a four-letter word?
Over the years, reckless decisions by both the public and private-sectors have undermined the American worker's hard-earned economic progress. Decisions driven by greed and political expediency have precipitated a financial collapse of global dimensions, spawned an unprecedented trade deficit, increased our foreign debt to dangerous levels and created budget deficits at all levels of government. The latest examples of profligate spending has been the news about the city of Detroit's bankruptcy, the largest in American history, and the insolvency of the Philadelphia Public Schools. As a result, experienced workers have been laid off or have stopped looking for work.
Young people with freshly minted college degrees cannot find work, and tens of millions of American families find it challenging to meet a monthly budget that covers basic household expenses. It will not be easy to correct years of accumulated errors of judgment, greed, and plain unlawful behavior, but we must start now in order to ensure that future generations of Americans will continue to enjoy the prosperity that our predecessors bequeathed to us.
There is another reason to celebrate Labor Day. The right to organize and to collectively bargain is a fundamental American value. Through collective bargaining workers have won important concessions, which have resulted in significant improvements in their standard of living and have fostered greater job satisfaction and higher productivity in the workplace.
Our economic and political performance as a nation in 2013, as it was the case in 2012, continues to highlight a potential watershed juncture in our national history that if left unchecked could have ominous consequences for future generations. According to the U.S. Government, the Great Recession started in 2007, but those who bore the brunt of it know or at least feel that it started much earlier.
Regardless of who might be right, this economic morass has already become a sobering milestone for the beginning of the United State's second century of political and socio-economic hegemony among nations, a privileged position that the Greatest Generation of World War II bequeathed to their children, the Baby Boomer Generation, and one that we must restore and preserve at all cost for the benefit of those who will soon be following us, and for peace and freedom throughout the world.