This week on the podcast, I commemorate Labor Day by reading a short account of my day in the desert with a rancher turned landscaper. The story is called “A Prick in Congress,” which I wrote several years ago to commemorate the launch of @mikeroweWORKS, which also coincides with Labor Day. A Prick in Congress is followed by a conversation with Chuck about that first official Labor Day in 1894, back when most workers were laboring 12 hours a day in conditions that would be illegal today. It was a hell of a time. A time before occupational safety was a concept, much less a reality. A time before labor laws and workers’ rights. A time before pensions, vacation days, sick days, health insurance, and so many other advancements made possible by the work of many excellent trade unions.
But the bigger point is this – union or non-union – it makes no sense to constantly pit the employee and the employer against each other. Labor and management are two sides of the same coin, and without both sides, America has no workforce. Labor Day should remind us of that – especially this one. Because today, the biggest work-related crisis facing our country has nothing to do with occupational safety or 12-hour workdays or 7-day work weeks or a higher minimum wage. The biggest work-related challenge facing America today is the lowest workforce participation rate in memory, and the undeniable existence of 11.5 million good jobs that no one seems to want.
mikeroweWORKS began in 2008 as a public awareness campaign for millions of good jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. Today, we award work ethic scholarships to those who wish to learn a skill that’s in demand. We do this, because most of those 11.5 million jobs currently open don’t require a diploma from a university – they require training, and more importantly, a willingness to work. Last month, we awarded over $1.5 million to 300 applicants who demonstrated the kind of work ethic I hope to encourage. To them, I say congratulations. To everyone else, I say Happy Labor Day, and cordially invite you to join me in a place called Congress, where the pricks are literally everywhere…