:: Monday, September 05, 2005 ::

Happy Labor Day
My Labor Day began with a 7:15 a.m. phone call from a guy who attends the same church as I. Dy had talked to him about doing some landscaping work for us. He was calling this morning because he had some free time on his hands. He and his girlfriend made their usual 30-minute drive this morning to their jobs at a nearby product distribution warehouse, where normally they both work 12-hour shifts unloading trucks. But when they got there this morning, they were told they were not needed. Not enough trucks delivering today. Usually, 140 trucks drop their goods at the warehouse every day. But because of the rise in fuel costs, or logistical problems caused by or myriad other macroeconomic supply-chain issues, only 65 trucks had delivered over the past 24 hours.

So, happy Labor Day. You get an unwanted day off, without pay.

Even before Katrina hit, their shifts had been cut from 12 hours to 10, adding additional pinch to folks who have to burn up an expensive tank of gas a week to get to their jobs.

This man and woman belong to that demographic we now call the working poor. We've been hearing a lot about the working poor lately. It seems New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were full of them -- low-wage workers in the tourism industry, teachers, office workers. Thomas Sowell claims that the working poor are not as numerous as some claim. That may be true. (Despite the fact that Sowell discounts the "part-time" workers cited by the Business Week cover story he attempts to refute. Well, this couple both work fewer than 40 hours a week -- much fewer now -- but that's exactly how their employer wants it, to save on the rising costs of benefits.) Yes, statistically, it may be true. But I invite Mr. Sowell to visit my neck of the woods sometimes, and he'll meet plenty of them. I worship together with some of them on Sunday mornings. I work with some of them every day -- groundskeepers, secretaries, custodians. The ones I know are not lazy. They work hard in hopes of having a decent life. Many of them -- the ones that bother to vote -- even voted for President Bush in the last election, because they share many of the same values, even while living in entirely different worlds. But looking at the raw numbers again, consider this news report about a recent AFL-CIO survey of workers. Fewer workers are optimistic about the employment outlook. "More than half say they're not doing better than their parents did at the same age. Also, 54 percent of workers are worried and concerned, rather than hopeful and confident, about achieving their economic and financial goals, according to the survey. In 1999, 70 percent of workers were 'hopeful and confident.'"

Maybe Dy and I can help this guy and his girlfriend a little bit by providing some extra bucks during tough times. Maybe that will help instill some hope and confidence. But probably not as much as a full-time job with a few benefits would.

Happy Labor Day.

:: Andrew 09:23 + ::

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