It’s Labor Day in the U.S.

I actually have today off! I am pretty pleased about this, since it means I slept until eight instead of getting up at 3:45.

When I was a kid I didn’t understand the point of Labor Day. I mean, what were we celebrating? People who work? Everybody works, that’s not special! What’s the point of that? And there were no presents or candies. Not a great holiday, from my point of view.

But here’s the thing.

Income inequality is at a high point in the U.S. It’s at it’s highest point since 1928. “1928” should ring a bell for students of U.S. history — it’s the point just before the Wall Street crash that kicked off the Great Depression. Income inequality then was ludicrous.

Yet labor union memberships is shrinking.

Those two facts are probably not unrelated.

Labor unions formed to combat inequality and injustice in the workplace. Unions formed to give workers the right to work without contracting diseases that killed them. Unions formed to give workers the right to defend themselves against abuse, rape, and employer violence. Unions formed to give workers the ability to live and eat off their wages.

I wish sometimes that my union, NATCA, did not take all the actions it takes. I disagree with it from time to time. I find the political maneuvering to be tedious. But I am still a member. I still pay dues. I still vote for my union rep.

I don’t believe unions are the solution to income inequality. I think it’s bigger than that. But until something better comes along, they’re what we’ve got.

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