On Labor Day, we stop to celebrate the American worker. But too many of us don’t feel like we can stop or celebrate.
The data show job growth, experts talk of an optimistic outlook on employment, and there are new progressive policies on wages and paid leave. Together, these factors seem to paint a positive picture for workers across the region.
Yet too many workers still don’t experience such a rosy reality.
We’re working longer hours and receiving less vacation time. Our health benefits are more expensive or not as comprehensive. We’re living paycheck to paycheck. There are jobs in some industries and professions, but they’re not as secure as they once were. Too many of us are underemployed, earning less or doing less than what our skills might allow. Part-time is often all that’s available when full-time is needed. The result is a hamster-wheel mentality in which we feel as if we’re running in place, all the while wondering what comes next for us and our families.
The statistics tell a brighter story. As of July, Long Island employers added 16,600 jobs to the region’s market compared with a year ago, and the region’s unemployment rate is just 4.2 percent. Nationally, unemployment has held steady at 4.9 percent, and employers added 151,000 jobs to their payrolls in August. And then there’s Albany, where state lawmakers this year bumped New York’s minimum wage to an eventual $15 an hour, and gave employees 12 weeks of paid family leave.
But there’s more to do.
How do we get to the point when our reality matches the data — when we can indeed stop and celebrate on Labor Day? How do we recalibrate the economy, increase wages and opportunities, match workers with better jobs, train them for jobs of the future, and develop a plan to raise millions out of poverty?
It’s a challenge that’s taken center stage in this year’s presidential election, but there are few specifics and details from either candidate. Lofty promises aren’t enough, but that is all we’re getting.
— The editorial board