The Ironic Roots of Labor Day Gaining Strength in Today’s Economy

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We need only look at the origins of Labor Day, as detailed by Time Magazine’s Olivia Waxman, to understand the irony of this celebration today. A century ago, factory workers went on strike to demand better conditions. Today, start-up “hustlers” celebrate their own exploitation.

Take for example Wells Fargo, about whom I have written many times. It is fairly obvious that as the recent article by Jeffrey Goldfarb states - "they have a tiger by the tail but they don't know how big the tail is". This begs the question, why should we believe the other banks, who also cross sold products, did not also force employees to engage in similar practices.

If Wells Fargo can't come to grips with how massive the problem is, it is incomprehensible for me to accept that the other banks are clean here unless they have better checks and balances or systems that detect this type of activity, which reflects incompetence, negligence or fraud. If they have such systems, they should share them with Wells Fargo to avoid a total lack of confidence in all banks. The other possibility here is that Wells Fargo was still covering this up - and if this can be proven - they are toast!

Noam Scheiber’s New York Times article sheds a bright light on the Trump administration’s reversal of its business focus from workers to entrepreneurs, taking away important health and safety regulations. By reinforcing right to work legislation, Trump is reversing his promises that did protect employees to some extent. It is ironic that he still maintaining his core base of supporters despite the fact that many of them are being disenfranchised by his administration.

Another irony can be found in an article I wrote a year ago about Kimberly Clark, where I describe the dehumanization of firing practices that unfortunately are viewed as progressive. I maintain that the opposite is true, and that the effects of this type of systematically removing the ‘dead wood’ leads to a higher turnover of employees, which is most certainly a red flag and a negative. Such weighted ranking systems negatively influence loyalty within any organization because true loyalty is a two-way dynamic – employers must be as loyal to their employees as their employees are to them.

If your company is forcing people out due to the timing of age-related pension or other benefit plans, or is able to fire you at will with no stated reason, you can be sure that you are working in a toxic culture where senior management are bullies.

In my book, From Bully to Bull’s Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, I discuss the role of the bystander and how to become an activist. To celebrate Labor Day as it was originally intended, I would encourage employees to take a stand by stepping out of the role of bystander and becoming an activist by pushing for legislation that encourages corporate cultures to provide psychologically safe, fair workplaces.

Photo credit: Nick Youngson