Labor Day has come and gone in our little Southwest Oregon town. The day seemed to just slide on by with little notice and could have been easily forgotten. Oh, the banks were closed. And the post office. Garbage pickup will be a day late this week. Usual happenings on any declared day off.

What was missing was any gathering – a small parade or a picnic or at least some political event – in the park. Just weren’t any. Labor Day in these parts was – well – laborless.

Used to be Labor Day in most places was pretty much a community event with a loud parade, a big picnic in the largest park in town and an invasion of Democrat politicians to make speeches, eat hamburgers, have a beer or two and shake every hand within reach. You took the kids and you enjoyed the day with your family and your union brothers and sisters. All day. It was a big deal!

It sure wasn’t here. Oh, we’ve got unions. Several in the timber industry. For what it’s worth, our teachers still organize. We’ve got government workers and service employees by the dozens. And with all the truckers working out of this region, we’ve got some Teamster cards. But Labor Day? In the Park? The music, the barbeque, the politicians? Nothing.

I’m like most Americans: neither heavily pro nor loudly anti-unions. I’ve carried a card when I had to. I’ve opted not to when it wasn’t required for employment. I’ve seen some real boondoggles and messes caused by one union or the other. I’ve seen circumstances where the union not only improved wages and employment for good workers, it also saved lives.

But, while not being a staunch union supporter, I’m angry at politicians – and the corporations that put all those dollars in their pockets – for making union membership an excuse to put targets on the backs of workers. Police, fire, teachers and public servant career workers have been pounded by governors, legislatures and many in congress. In the last year, many states have tried to legislate unions out of existence. In doing so, they have vilified people for no other reason than their membership cards.

At least one state – Ohio – seems to have had a political change of heart. After putting a law on the books decimating unions, the Republican governor and his GOP legislative brethren are rethinking the issue and offering to make significant changes if Democrats will agree. Could be the outpouring of bipartisan opposition by voters in both parties, a dozen or more successful recall petition drives and a significant voter-backed repealer on the next election ballot got their attention.

To say all Republicans are against unions and Democrats universally support them would be untrue. But, once elected, too many politician act as if that were the case. It’s not. Like so many other personal issues – yes, including abortion – those who think that way are dead wrong and their intrusion into yet another area of individual freedoms simply diverts attention away from all the other real unsolved problems.

I am continually amazed at those who holler at the top of their lungs about “government intrusion” in their lives yet support it when it’s in someone else’s. I’m talking union busting here but it could just as easily be perceived gun control, too many unnecessary regulations or wanting to use government to stop abortions.

Politicians of all stripes – at all levels – have more than enough to keep them busy these days without union busting and bashing public employees. None of them – not one – will solve all the problems on his/her plate in our lifetimes. But they could accomplish a lot more if they’d stop messing with our lives and let us be us. With or without a union card.

What will eventually get our economy out of the ditch isn’t politicians but the hard hats doing tough infrastructure jobs that must be done. And the teachers educating kids who will eventually make the national political and economic decisions. And the truckers, oil rig workers, auto assembly people and the timber guys. A lot of ‘em will carry union cards. And all of them – all of them – should be recognized for saving our butts.

I missed Labor Day this year.

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