Labor Day reflections: It’s messy

In honor of Labor Day, it seems appropriate to reflect just a bit on the state of employer-employee relations.

It’s messy, although not quite as messy as it’s been.

We’ve come a long way from the roots of the labor movement. Company stores and the working conditions of Chicago meat packers and New York sweat shops seem something out of the middle ages.

We’re closer to the battles over public employee unions that have rocked some Midwest states. Some here in Nevada would argue that the war on public unions has begun here; others would say the Republican majority in the Legislature missed an opportunity this spring. Either way, the issue isn’t going away and we’ll hear more about it as the presidential election season grinds on.

Prolonged strikes are in the rearview mirror; political battles over minimum wage levels are straight ahead. Dominating the news is the story of a savvy union of high-priced athletes that got itself locked into a long-term deal in which it ceded unbridled disciplinary rights to the front-man for owners. Yes, Deflategate is passing the nine-month mark and we haven’t heard the last of it.

Elsewhere in this week’s edition, we have a guest column putting a positive spin on the annual ritual of playing fantasy football while on the company clock. Maybe the cure would be worse than the disease, but the widespread acceptance of wasting company time is a symptom of a modern malaise.

Companies don’t blink about outsourcing or offshoring jobs if the deal pencils. Employees gladly jump to a competitor for a few dollars more. Loyalty is an outdated concept. Independent contractors and part-time relationships are on the rise. As healthcare arrangements shift away from the workplace, one of the final ties that bind is vanishing, gone as clearly as the company pension.

On the positive side, entrepreneurship and startups are in. So is following your passion, your dream, your bliss and betting on yourself. As much as we’d like to believe everyone will succeed, we know that won’t happen. And that’s a concern as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are circling the drain.

Yes, it’s messy. But it’s still worth celebrating.

Hope you had a great Labor Day.


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