Labor Day, Day Labor, and a Chinese Delegation
After texting my daughter-in-law to wish her a happy birthday last evening (I know that sounds lame, but we already had a large birthday celebration at our house the day before yesterday…and I gave her a hug, shared endearments, etc, in person), I paused for a bit over the thought that it was also Labor Day, 2009. I had had to work and didn’t give much thought to the day other than to help myself to some of the pot-luck luncheon that we had prepared (the appropriate theme food was Italian – a great labor source in the early 1900’s [Italian immigrants] and continuing presence in labor and, appropriately at our work-place, law enforcement). Also, I knew that the city offices and other police bureaus were closed, so there would be and were less people in the building at work and less traffic both coming to and leaving my work-place.
This isn’t going to be scintillating, okay, but it might not be altogether boring either. When we think about Memorial Day in our country, we immediately or automatically think about the military folks who have died over the years defending what we have labeled ‘freedom’ and the ‘American way of life.’ Sure, they died and are dying for other things, too, like lies (‘misinformation’ ?) about weapons of mass destruction and “Nobody threatens my Daddy!,” but that’s another article or two. When we think of Veterans’ Day, we are quick to think about anybody who served in our country’s military, even the ones who didn’t die and who we didn’t remember a few months earlier. If we’re old enough, we might remember that Veteran’s Day used to be called ‘Armistice Day,’ signifying the end of World War I. The name was changed by certain well-intentioned people after the conclusion of World War II. And then with the new name, there came a new meaning, but that’s already obvious. And we can’t forget Independence Day and all that it signifies to our United States of America; the colonists fighting for freedom from King George, taxation without representation, etc…but what about Labor Day?
What does ‘Labor Day’ mean, whose labor and what kind of labor? The U.S. Department of Labor website (http://www.dol.gov/OPA/ABOUTDOL/LABORDAY.HTM) informs interested viewers that the holiday 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.” I like that; it’s almost stirring, even. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_Day) explains that civic and labor leaders often give speeches emphasizing economic and civic significance, and that, for most Americans (and these are probably just the Americans who live in the United States of America, as opposed to all South Americans, Central Americans, North Americans who live in Canada, etc), the Labor Day holiday has come to signify the ‘end of summer,’ the last opportunity to take the kids out to the lake, make the symbolically American drive up to Yellowstone, Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, etc, before everyone has to buckle-down again and have their collective noses to the grindstones of work and school. I guess it also means that this is the last weekend of the year that well-to-do fashionable women can wear white summer clothes and accessories when they go out to the Hamptons, but that’s rather foreign to my modest working-class background, so I won’t go any further with it. For a last touch on Wikipedia, this informational site informs us that college football starts the weekend before Labor Day, and the National Football League starts their season the Thursday after the Labor Day holiday, and…that most Americans celebrate the holiday with picnics, social gatherings with games, barbeques, etc. That’s all significant stuff to American workers, right?
In my Google search, I found that President Obama (an important civil leader) did give a national address on Labor Day. I saw clips of it on the muted television at work that was programmed to CNN. The footers gave clues as to what the president was speaking of with most of it focusing on the American workers’ concern for health insurance reform and related issues. The Google-revealed article mentioned the above and said that the president gave his speech at a labor union picnic in Ohio that was sponsored by the AFL-CIO, “America’s largest union federation.”
When I checked Google again for local Labor Day activities in the greater metro-Phoenix area, the first two entries were – Phoenix Labor Day Weekend 2009 Events Guide, and The Day Labor Market in Phoenix, Arizona. Wow…so maybe Labor Day does mean something to the Central and South Americans…Labor Day in curious juxtaposition with Day Labor. Wonderful. Rest, relaxation, a bottle of suds, tossing-around a frisbee, cheap labor and exploitation, and aggressive, trespassing Mexican men who want to trim your trees or pull the dead weeds in your yard…for their opportunity for a better American life. Next subject, as significant people walk out of the room to avoid the perpetual arguement….
When I was speaking with my daughter at work yesterday or the day before, I told her that a delegation of Chinese dignitaries was in Phoenix for the weekend. They arrived on Friday and would be leaving on Tuesday, today. She asked why they were here, what were they doing here, and why here of all places. I shared with her that I only knew they were here from a security escort document I had received in my work email, but that there was no information explaining the purpose or reason for the visit. I suggested that they were checking-out the Chinese Cultural Center in east-downtown Phoenix; maybe they had investments there or something, I don’t know. But it struck me today why they might be here. Or rather, it struck me today how odd it is that they were here for this particular weekend of the year. It was probably just coincidence, but here it is anyway, and I could be wrong; probably am, but…we all know what ‘out-source’ means, right? We know what it means when someone refers to off-shore capital investments, globalization, NAFTA, etc, right? In regard to the U.S. Labor Day holiday, we could make the snide connection as being all the jobs lost by American labor to other countries, such as…China. Labor unions became so strong in advocating for workers’ rights, improved salaries, retirements, health coverage, etc, that corporations came to understand that they were ‘losing’ too much money to employees’ salaries and benefits that they could be keeping for themselves…if they could only find a labor pool to do the work for less money, hell…for a lot less money…in say, Mexico and India and Pakistan and Taiwan and…China. I have nothing against the Chinese people, or Mexicans, Indians, Pakistanis, Taiwanese, or any of the other exploited people who fall under this umbrella, nothing, they just want to work…as do the American laborers…who also want to pay less for their goods when they shop at Wal-Mart (yet another article)…what a conundrum.
Anyway, that’s Labor Day, 2009, in Phoenix with its Chinese delegation, day laborers, football season, and work-place pot-lucks.
And Happy Birthday again, Krista!