Labor Day celebrations ignore our jobless

By Nate Jackson Most folks think Labor Day is all about BBQs and kids splashing around in cheap plastic pools and keeping up appearances no matter the cost. Unfortunately Labor Day is just another day to stand in line—a day work line—and hope there’s some work to be done. This national holiday used to be a celebration of working families, but how can we celebrate when so many of us aren’t working?

Families drove into the Home Depot’s parking lot to pick up last minute supplies for a new grill, deck or other family project over the weekend. The cars rushed in, the children tumbled out and the parents argued about which credit card wasn’t maxed out. If they just kept pretending things were normal maybe it would be.  The problem is this “recovery” isn’t normal. Too many of us are still out of work, underemployed or running up our credit cards because corporations and greedy CEOs just aren’t hiring.

Even on Labor Day many of us can’t afford to take the day off. Some of us were looking for work in the parking lot. Some were laid off construction workers who have been turned away because the work demand is so low. Some had no day labor experience, but because no one is hiring anywhere else they would try anything. Most of the drivers ignored us as they pretended they weren’t one paycheck away from the street themselves.

We know this recession isn’t over and the fact that we keep going through the motions and ignoring the facts needs to stop.  We have to work together and realize we are all on the same side; no one is a throw away.

A young man in his twenties sat outside a QFC on Labor Day.  He had a cardboard sign that read “out of work artist” and next to him were samples of his art.  He paints.

He was surprised when I stopped to chat with him. He told me that most people sped up and avoided looking at him. He didn’t understand how they could act like they weren’t on the edge of a knife with this economy as it is. No one is hiring.

He hasn’t been able to find any work for so long that he has to beg to survive.  He had a forced smile and even though the sun was beating down on him he was wrapped in a blanket.

He mumbled good day when they ignored him and was grateful when someone gave him anything. He would snatch the money out of their hands and stuff it in his back pocket before looking up with the same forced smile.

There is a jobs crisis in this country.  We want to work.  We leave our homes on a national holiday to work and we are denied.  We need our politicians and our big and small businesses to take the lead in creating good jobs so that anyone who is willing and able has the opportunity to find a living wage job.

Working families create the profit that CEOs are snatching away for themselves. We have the most productive workforce the world has ever seen. Working people are the backbone of this country and it’s time we remembered that.  We’ve been hit with layoffs, CEO bonuses and the lack of hiring.  Enough. This is our Labor Day; let’s keep fighting because we’re going to win. We always have.