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Straight From the Mike…Labor Day Remembrances


American life is portrayed as a series of binary choices. Defund/Support the Police, Red/Blue States, Liberal/Conservative Agendas, Free enterprise/Socialist solutions, CNN/Fox news ad nauseum.

Reality is much different than these “keep them watching, keep them angry, keep them donating, keep them distracted” scenarios.

In its March digital edition, The Industrial Worker, the official magazine of the Industrial Workers of the World, founded in 1905, and still going strong despite every attempt by government during the Wilson years to discredit it, contained an interesting article entitled, The Value of Labor.

That article, in part, pointed out the continuing wage and income disparity that began in the 1970’s which is closer to the real ills of our society. Along with it is a financial capitalism that has created immense wealth that is not being invested in the world’s economy, a disparity that “marginalizes, belittles, and dooms millions of men and women to a life of hopelessness and despair.”

Coupled with the bailout of the large corporate banks by the U.S., an act of corporate socialism, and oligarchs whose wealth is in part based on research from government funded institutions, the public is demanding answers to this very real economic crisis.

One solution proposed in The Value of Labor article was the Labor Dividend. As explained in the article:

“Wages have not satisfactorily addressed the workers’ financial interest in the product of their works.

The exertion of labor is compensated by wages, but the labor dividend, inherent in the produced product, has never been adequately compensated for nor properly addressed. In actuality, wages are in a real sense nothing more, nothing less than compensation for the exertion of a worker’s labor. The worker has earned, however, an additional compensation, a value of labor in the product itself.

If wages are the compensation in fact for the exertion of labor, there must be due the laborer an added labor dividend, which is the compensation due for the value of labor in every product produced. In this sense labor has an ownership and possessory interest in the product itself through this labor dividend.

The definition of wages, property, possession, ownership, and control must be readjusted to include the Labor Dividend in every product produced. The Labor Dividend should be clearly reflected in every collective bargaining agreement.

Our definitions of property and possession and indeed control over production must be re-adjusted to include the Labor Dividend in every product produced.

The right to Wages earned, has been protected by state and in some instances federal law. The definition of wages must be necessarily broadened to include the labor dividend.

Labor Day is not simply a long weekend, but a reminder in this time of reexamination of the roles of policing and the greater good, just how much life unfortunately repeats itself. The Red or Crimson banner stood proudly for the rights of working men and women. Theodore Roosevelts Progressive Party for example proudly displayed the red flag. It was not as it became later through a whitewashing of history, a code word for Communism.

Let us look squarely at the serious economic discrepancy that is the real issue of our day.

As Churchill said, “…we ought to rejoice at the responsibilities with which destiny has honored us, and be proud that we are guardians of our country in an age when her life is at stake.”

President Eisenhower in his farewell address not only warned of the dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex but the danger that Democracy itself may become the bankrupt phantom of tomorrow.

The article asks of us: Did we leave behind a new understanding of property and possessions, and that every product produced contains a labor dividend to which a worker is entitled?

When one industry was displaced to another nation or region “to keep labor costs” down did we provide for those displaced workers compensation in an amount equal to the value of labor in the displaced product as if it were made here?

Did we leave behind a new understanding of property and possessions recognizing the worth of every man and woman?

Did we build a new world based on love, justice and understanding or simply replace the domination of one people by another so ingrained in us is the desire to possess and control?

As we ponder the present, let us think about the challenges that face us in a new way. For me, I am reminded of the famous slogan of the National Urban League, “You are either part of the solution, or you are a part of the problem”. Let us be part of the solution.

Take a moment, to remember those ‘Labor Warriors’ who have gone before us, for the contributions they made to make it possible for many of us to enjoy the fruit from trees we did not plant.

Until next time..

Michael Murphy

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