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Labor Day sounds like too much work for me

September 04, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

Happy Labor Day. Heavens, that word scares me so. Labor. Sounds too much like work.

I mean work, that's not such a bad word. You can work on a big steak. You can work on your golf game. But labor, that's serious business. You never hear anyone say "I'm going to labor on this jigsaw puzzle for a while."

Labor means some major muscle group is going to ache.

As a matter of fact, I've spent most of my life working on a way to get out of labor.

And the labor movement was quite an imposing beast itself, once upon a time. Labor was powerful enough once to get its own national holiday, for crying out loud. There's labor, rubbing elbows with Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now it's so pass that even if you do get overtime, it's likely to come in the form of a mayonnaise coupon.

For labor today, a big win is when the company only closes three plants instead of four.

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Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894, and it's a good thing. What if it hadn't? Can you imagine a group of workers today marching up to this Congress and asking that a national holiday be declared so that everyone in the country could have one extra day off a year?

Congressmen would choke on their cigars, they'd be laughing so hard.

Personally, I think you have to admire a nation in which the less you produce the more you get paid. You notice that Congress itself is wise enough not to pay itself by the piece. If it did, they'd all be paupers. Instead, they are handsomely rewarded for doing absolutely nothing of merit.

But even congressmen have to stand up in front of the cameras every couple of years and say, "Me want job back. Go polls. Vote me."

That's more than an investment banker has to do. They paper-clip some documents, merge a couple of companies that it really serves no purpose to merge and then sit back and wait for the $20 million Christmas bonus.

Yes I know, it's really more complicated than that. Sometimes the documents have to be stapled.

And it's too simplistic to say that the investment banker has affected nothing. Because as a rule, the one merged company is less productive than the sum of the two unmerged companies. So, thanks to these "synergies," the investment banker has actually created something after all: Less production.

This is no small feat. And truly, as you can imagine, it puts no small strain on these corporations to adapt. Fortunately, American companies are flexible, and to handle all this lost production, they have risen heroically to the challenge of less productivity by getting rid of more workers.

And this was before NAFTA.

Actually, NAFTA was a cunning stratagem, although a lot of people don't see it yet. The fault lies, as usual, with the American people who saw NAFTA as trade policy when it was actually a cleverly disguised piece of immigration policy.

Why do Latino immigrants come to America? For jobs, obviously. But if we send those jobs from America to the Latino nations, if they want to work, they will have to stay home. Ha ha! Take that, Mexico.

Show me one Mexican worker now employed in a former Garden State Tanning job, and I'll show you one guy who's not sprinting down a Nogales arroyo past a border guard.

Congress: Dumb like a fox.

We have even succeeded in exporting jobs that require a high level of skill, such as picking up the telephone, overseas. Your Dell goes on the fritz and you phone the call center. The first thing you hear is, "For English, press 1 now."

Myself, I would like to suggest another option: "For someone you can talk to who actually SPEAKS English, press 2 now."

But this could be construed as a sarcastic comment, which would unnecessarily detract from this overall positive message about the celebration of Labor Day, so kindly strike that from the record.

And as for keeping such gratuitous statements to myself in the future - well, I'll work on it.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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