News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Labor Day recognizes our indispensable people

Our society tends to recognize and reward visionaries, leaders and entrepreneurs more than the people who work day to day to make others' dreams come true. Today, Labor Day, is an effort to rectify that imbalance.

We need both types.

Somebody must figure out which way businesses, governments and other enterprises should be going, and then push and pull them in the right direction.

Think about how much people like Microsoft's Bill Gates have changed the world. When you use a computer or a piece of computerized equipment (including something as universal as an automobile, a television or a kitchen appliance), you are benefiting from Mr. Gates' work. Now he's the richest person in the world. The rest of us might envy his wealth, but who's to say he didn't earn it?

Similarly, people who invest their money and resources, taking chances that many would avoid, deserve to be rewarded.

But for every leader or manager at any level, multiple laborers carry out the details. Whether they're working in a chicken plant, teaching, serving guests in a restaurant or hotel, meeting the needs of people displaced by a hurricane, or producing paper, automobiles or rockets, their work is indispensable.

As product manufacturing has become more automated, an increasing percentage of jobs are service-oriented. These services are just as valuable as products — perhaps more so, because they advance the social and spiritual values that make life rich.

Not everybody gets compensated appropriately for his or her work — whether it's leadership in a low-paying field, an invention that fails to catch on, craftsmanship, or diligence on behalf of his employer. Workers sometimes know better than their employers what's good for business, but the employers fail to listen and reward them. Rank-and-file workers can fall victim to circumstances beyond their control, such as economic forces that take away their jobs.

We need to do more to make sure that those who put in an honest day's useful work are able to support their families and live in a reasonable degree of comfort and health.

Labor Day is an occasion to thank workers at all levels who contribute to the well-being not only of themselves and their employers, but of the public at large.

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