Happy Labor Day to the kind of workers America needs
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, August 28, 2014


“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”

— The U.S. Department of Labor website.

I noted in a 2006 column that it was good of the unions to create this particular summertime break, but they don’t own the concept “workers.” I then took the opportunity to thank all the working people who add to the strength and prosperity of this country, starting with the members of the U.S. Armed Forces who defend its well-being. No more honorable job than theirs!

It was a simple column, for simpler, more innocent times. The economy hadn’t almost been destroyed by the government-inspired housing bubble, leading to a serious recession that was close to being a depression, even a world-wide event. This crisis led to more government intervention that, along with the election/agenda of Barack Obama, has kept the economy down for six years, with many Americans under or unemployed.

In 2006, the U.S. Armed Forces were still strong and feared by our enemies, who are now emboldened by America’s slow loss of its “exceptionalism” to commit horrendous acts against humanity.

Also in the public safety arena, the police were, I thought, well-respected by most Americans. I, myself, have never had a bad experience with any police officer. But now we see what has apparently been a longstanding resentment in many black communities toward some police departments that seem to protect their own against valid complaint.

Though we don’t yet have the facts in the Missouri situation, my first thought is always that a police shooting was justified, but my second thought is that it’s possible there could be a cover-up. This reluctant skepticism is fueled by the local story about the Lowell police officer who killed a man in a head-on collision while driving drunk; Eric Wayne has a history of driving infractions, including drunk driving last year, but is still a police officer.

Of course a drunk driver doesn’t need to be a police officer to be gently treated by the court system; this was an old story back in 2006, too. Labor Day weekend is more dangerous than it needs to be, because of certain lenient judges who put us all at risk.

Now to share some recent positive labor experiences. This week, I went downtown to the Village Plaza to get Chip and me the lobster rolls that I’d seen advertised all summer. He usually gets his fast-food lunch at the nearby Village Roast Beef, while I like Pizzeria Romano in the same strip. I’d never been to the tiny Manhattan Sandwich Company.

Not paying attention to the time, I got there at noon, along with everyone else; watched in amazement as one worker took our all our orders on little pieces of paper, slid them down to the other two workers who quickly made the sometimes complicated sandwiches, then passed them back to the first to package with a pickle and take our money. Because the employees were so good-natured in the lunchtime press of business, the other customers were friendly, too.

This reminded me for some reason of the Market Basket dispute, which I thought would be settled before Labor Day, and we could comment on how well or how badly an employee-driven marketplace functions. We still don’t know if Market Basket will survive and thrive, or go under, leaving the rest of us to take care of employees who lose their jobs and can’t find new ones in this economy.

I’ve been fascinated by the emotional involvement of people who don’t work there or even shop there; seems to be some connection with their own experiences with employers, or perhaps a nostalgia for a long-ago America of family-centered stores that care about their employees. I’d love to see the beloved Arthur T. help the employees and providers who lost income on his behalf; that would restore my belief in something.

I’m a Stop & Shopper myself; it’s friendly enough for me and reasonable with my customer card and newspaper coupons. And here’s something surprising I recently experienced: A checkout person made another customer abide by the rules! A woman in front of me in the “Fewer than 12 items” aisle (I’m impressed when any store’s sign says “fewer” instead of “less”) unloaded a cart full of groceries while the clerk was distracted helping the previous customer with her debit card; the clerk made the violator reload them and go to the proper aisle. Thank you, Miss, for your fairness to those of us who carefully count each item before getting in that line!

I also like that Stop & Shop hires the handicapped and lets the Salvation Army person sit inside in bad weather. It also lets citizens petition on its sheltered walkway, as have Crosby’s and the Community Store in Marblehead — and Market Basket in many communities.

For my required August car inspection, I started going to the Citgo garage between Vinnin Square and Swampscott after I met the Armenian immigrant then-owner at a party. This year, one man came out as I arrived to get my keys, another one soon brought them back and collected my state fee while noting that he’d also sanded down a scrape I’d been carrying on the passenger side, no charge, and a third held my driver’s door for me while he filled the tank with gas. These are the kinds of workers America needs.

Happy Labor Day, especially for all those who stand all day behind a counter, treat their customers well and get the job done.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle-Tribune newspapers.

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