Advertisement

Labor Day not all celebration

September 06, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- With the country's struggling economy and Washington County dealing with unemployment rates ranging from 9.1 percent to 10.5 percent this year, this Labor Day is a tough one, according to a local union official.

Not only is the number of people who are out of work a tough pill to swallow, but so are the number of jobs that have been shipped out of the country, said David Perkins, president of United Auto Workers Local 171, which has about 1,000 active members at the Volvo Powertrain North America plant in Hagerstown. Perkins said 350 of those are laid off from the plant, which formerly was Mack Trucks.

"I think this is one of the saddest Labor Days," said Perkins.

In addition to Volvo workers, Local 171, with an office on Maugans Avenue, also represents about 30 workers at EPS/CCA, a Williamsport company that makes pigments for paint, and about 75 workers at Xerxes, a Williamsport company that makes underground fiberglass storage tanks.

Advertisement

The Labor Day holiday was designed to celebrate the working person. In May, there were 155.1 million people age 16 and older in the nation's work force. Of those workers, 7.7 million hold down more than one job and make up 5 percent of the working population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau said 288,000 people work two full-time jobs.

The first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade of 10,000 workers on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City. Congress passed a bill to establish a federal holiday in 1894 and President Grover Cleveland signed the bill, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

The bad economy means employers have to work harder to cut costs and make sure workers' time is used efficiently, said Wayne Hose, president of the Local 3373 of AFSCME Council 67, which represents 80 employees at the Hagerstown Police Department.

"Everybody has to pull together now," said Hose, a patrol officer with the local police department.

The police department has implemented or is working on cost-saving measures, such as limiting the amount of time officers have to spend in court, Hose said.

To control overtime, the department is making sure officers getting close to the end of their shifts are not taking calls that would force them to stay on duty into the next shift, Hose said.

Hose said he thinks it will be a year or two before the economy recovers completely.

But, he said, "I think things are starting to turn around."

Perkins said finding solutions to problems such as jobs being shipped out of the country largely is the responsibility of the federal government.

Some companies have shipped their jobs abroad because they want cheap labor in an environment that is not heavily regulated, Perkins said. Until that stops, it's going to be a "race to the bottom" for U.S. workers, Perkins said.

Perkins said the struggling economy and related problems have helped put some issues into perspective.

Unions have come to realize they cannot demand the large wages they once did, Perkins said.

At the same time, he said, companies need to realize that their chief executive officers cannot take home wildly excessive salaries compared to the pay of their workers.




The following Labor Day information was provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. More information can be found at www.census.gov.

The first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade of 10,000 workers on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, organized by Peter J. McGuire, Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary. By 1893, more than half the states were observing a "Labor Day" on one day or another, and Congress passed a bill to establish a federal holiday in 1894. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

By the numbers



155.1 million -- Number of people 16 and older in the nation's labor force in May 2009.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

83% -- Percentage of full-time workers 18 to 64 covered by health insurance during all or part of 2007.

Source: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007

77% -- Percentage of workers in private industry who receive a paid vacation as one of their employment benefits.

Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2009, Table 634

7.7 million -- Number of workers who hold down more than one job. So-called moonlighters comprise 5 percent of the working population. Of these, 4 million work full time at their primary job and part time at their other job.

Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2009, Table 589

288,000 -- Number of moonlighters who work full time at two jobs.

Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2009, Table 589

10.4 million -- Number of self-employed workers.

Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2009, Table 585

28% -- Percentage of workers 16 and older who work more than 40 hours a week. Eight percent work 60 or more hours a week.

Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2009, Table 582

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|