Thank laborers on Labor Day and everyday


This Labor Day I got to thinking about all the men and women who toiled to build this country and who built up the big corporations that are now kicking 'labor' to the side and sending their jobs overseas instead of getting behind national health care and demanding that other countries pay an honorable and competitive wage to their workers.

These days, it's easy to forget the laborers who were the backbone, flesh and blood that made this country great.

My grandfather, Thomas Cullen, was a proud union carpenter - and an Irish one, at that - who helped build the San Francisco International Exposition buildings, including the Crystal Palace, from which he fell and badly injured himself. They didn't have the kind of health care and disability care that we now enjoy back in 1915. It was folks like Thomas Cullen who stood on the picket lines and made demands of the wealthy industrialists who were sitting pretty on Nob Hill drinking fine scotch after a square meal, while my grandfather and others tried to feed and house their families on the pittance they were paid.

It was folks like him who ushered in the kind of wages and benefits that created what we now call the 'middle class' - folks who could buy a new car, who could own a home, who could proudly send their children to college. Some of those early organizers went to jail or even died for what they achieved. They made enormous sacrifices for the things we now just take for granted.

People today forget that the reason we have had a successful middle class is because people like my grandfather fought for safe working conditions, five-day workweeks and benefits.

And it was a win-win situation for all involved. Big corporations became even bigger and wealthier. Bottom line: They couldn't have achieved that level of success without the common laborer.

But now we have folks in Congress, puppets for the big corporations, who want to blame all of America's financial problems on labor instead on the most obvious of all things - corporate greed. My grandfather would roll over in his grave if he knew what was going on. He would tell you that, without laborers, there would be no big corporations and there would be no America as we know it.

So I would ask that everyone who sends their kids to public school, drives back and forth to jobs over public roads and bridges, who has weekly garbage pickup and mail delivery, has health care benefits, gets the weekends off to spend time with their families, has cleaner air to breathe and water to drink, has safer travel by plane, train, bus and car and who had Labor Day off as a national holiday to thank today's laborers and those courageous laborers of the past on whose shoulders our country was built.

Ann Wilson is a Lake Oswego resident from the Stafford area.