Monday, September 03, 2012

So Tell Me Again? Why Are We Home Today?

Because it's, you know, Labor Day, that little celebration of working people.

(Some politicians think the holiday is to celebrate the small businessman. But actually, no.)

The day started back east, in New York City, in 1882. In 1894 Labor Day got made a holiday. The Times-Union remembered the why and how, back in the 19th century:

Twelve years ago, in New York city, Labor Day was first celebrated. The general assembly of the Knights of Labor was held in New York in 1882, and it was proposed by Mr. P.J. McGuire, a member of the New York Central Labor union, that some time during the assembly's session that year all the labor organizations of New York should turn out in a big parade.

The proposition was adopted and a monster parade was held Sept. 5, which fell on the first Monday of the month. Working men of almost every trade took part, and this of course stopped many business establishments and virtually made the day a holiday. ...

Today, relatively few think about what the day means. (But then, who sits and reflects that November 11th -- Veteran's Day -- originally commemorated the end of World War I? Time moves on ... and slowly dissolves collective memory.)

The heirs to the Knights of Labor -- you and me -- have a lot of jams and jellies because of the marching, demonstrating and general rabble-rousing that they did, among them:

The Weekend

Employer-based Health Care

The End of Child Labor ...

And so on.

Anybody who hasn't been living in a Barstow basement has probably picked up on the fact that the Middle Class has been shrinking as the bank accounts of the Fortunate Few have been rapidly growing. (One of the issues that workers in the 1880s and 1930s rioted over.)

In animation's little corner of the world, differences in pay can be stark. In New York City, for example, wages are a fraction of what they are in unionized Los Angeles (where are the Knights when you need them?) Yet even in L.A., salaries have been stagnant for more than a decade and deadlines aren't getting less tight. Artists still wax nostalgic for the 1990s, when rates were skyrocketing and demand for work outstripped the size of the talent pool.

But times are different now. In the recent negotiations, TAG's negotiators got told that they should be grateful for the 2% wage bump-ups, since unions in other sectors of the economy were going with any increases. (To their credit, none of our folks showed much gratitude.)

Nonetheless, artists -- like most other working persons in the U.S. of A., are hunkered down. They know that times are far from ideal, and that companies are taking advantage of that reality. Which is, now that I think of it, pretty good motivation for remembering what this September 3 holiday is really all about.

Add On: A bit of chart porn, showing how well the Middle Class has been doing over the past three-plus decades.


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