Celebrating Labor Day: A Profile of American Labor

Aissa Yazzie &150; Navajo Nation, prepares for a career inNative Environmental Science at Northwestern Indian College

Aissa Yazzie &150; Navajo Nation, prepares for a career in
Native Environmental Science at Northwestern Indian College

Source: Native News Network

WASHINGTON – Labor Day pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers. The first observance of Labor Day was likely on September 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the country, and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a “workingmen’s holiday” on one day or another.

That same year, Congress passed legislation and President Grover Cleveland signed the bill on June 29, the first Monday in September would be designated as “Labor Day.” This national holiday is a creation of the labor movement in the late 19th century.

The following statistics that provide an overview of the labor force in the country today were furnished by the US Census Bureau:

Who Are We Celebrating?

155.7 million

Number of people 16 and over in the nation’s labor force in May 2013.

Our Jobs

Largest Occupations May 2012

Retail Salespeople
4,340,000 employees

Cashiers
3,314,010 employees

Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
2,943,810 employees

Office clerks, general
2,808,100 employees

Registered nurses
2,633,980 employees

Waiters and waitresses
2,332,020 employees

Customer service representatives
2,299,750 employees

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand
2,143,940 employees

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners
2,097,380 employees

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal medical, and executive
2,085,680 employees

Largest Occupations 1910

Farmers (owners and tenants)
6,132,000 employees

Farm laborers, wageworkers
2,832,000 employees

Farm laborers, unpaid family workers
2,514,000 employees

Operatives and kindred workers, manufacturing
2,318,000 employees

Laborers, nonmanufacturing industries
2,210,000 employees

Laborers, manufacturing
1,487,000 employees

Salesmen and sales clerks, retail trade
1,454,000 employees

Housekeepers, private household – living out
1,338,000 employees

Managers, officials, and proprietors, retail trade
1,119,000 employees

Mine operatives and laborers, crude petroleum & natural gas extraction
907,000 employees

847,516

The number of paid employees (for pay period including March 12) who worked for a gasoline station in the US in 2011. Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a holiday in February 1887. Oregon (9,634 paid gasoline station employees), along with New Jersey (15,734 paid gasoline station employees), are the only states without self-service gasoline stations.

15.9 million

The number of wage and salary workers age 16 and over represented by a union in 2012. This group includes both union members (14.4 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.6 million).

14.5 million

Number of female workers 16 and over in service occupations in 2011. Among male workers 16 and over, 11.2 million were employed in service-related occupations.

1.9 Percent

Percentage increase in employment in the US between December 2011 and December 2012. Employment increased in 287 of the 328 largest counties (large counties are defined as having employment levels of 75,000 or more).

7.4 Percent

Percentage increase over the year in employment in Elkhart, Indiana, between December 2011 and December 2012, compared with national job growth of 1.9 percent. Within Elkhart, the largest employment increase occurred in manufacturing, which gained 5,479 jobs over the year.

Another Day, Another Dollar

$48,202 and $37,118

The 2011 real median earnings for male and female full-time, year-round workers, respectively.

Fastest Growing Jobs

70 Percent

Projected percentage growth from 2010 to 2020 in the number of personal care aides (607,000). Analysts expect this occupation to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. Meanwhile, the occupation expected to add more positions over this period than any other is registered nurses (711,900).

Employee Benefits

84.7 Percent

Percentage of full-time workers 18 to 64 covered by health insurance during all or part of 2011.

Say Goodbye to Summer

Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.

25,448

The number of shoe stores for back-to-school shopping in 2011. Other choices of retail establishments abound: there were 28,128 family clothing stores, 7,093 children and infants clothing stores, 8,144 office supply and stationery stores, 8,407 bookstores and 8,625 department stores.

21,227

The number of sporting goods stores nationwide in 2011. In US sports, college football teams usually play their first games the week before Labor Day, with the NFL traditionally playing their first game the Thursday following Labor Day.

48,548

The number of travel agents employed full time, year-round in 2011. In addition, there were 15,067 tour and travel guides employed full time, year-round nationwide, according to the 2011 American Community Survey. On a weekend intended to give US workers a day of rest, many climb into their drivers’ seats or board an airplane for a quick end of the summer getaway.

The Commute to Work

5.7 million

Number of commuters who left for work between midnight and 4:59 am in 2011. They represented 4.3 percent of all commuters.

4.3 Percent

Percentage of workers 16 and over who worked from home in 2011.

76.4 Percent

Percentage of workers 16 and over who drove alone to work in 2011. Another 9.7 percent carpooled and 2.8 percent walked from home.

25.5 Minutes

The average time it took workers in the US to commute to work in 2011. Maryland and New York had the most time-consuming commutes, averaging 32.2 and 31.5 minutes, respectively.

4 Decades on, US starts cleanup of Agent Orange in Vietnam

Against the backdrop of a field contaminated by Agent Orange in Da Nang, Vietnamese military officers attended a ceremony on Thursday to mark the United States’ first big cleanup of war chemicals in Vietnam. Photo: Maika Elan/AP

By Thomas Fuller, NY Times

Forty years after the United States stopped spraying herbicides in the jungles of Southeast Asia in the hopes of denying cover to Vietcong fighters and North Vietnamese troops, an air base here is one of about two dozen former American sites that remain polluted with an especially toxic strain of dioxin, the chemical contaminant in Agent Orange that has been linked to cancers, birth defects and other diseases.

On Thursday, after years of rebuffing Vietnamese requests for assistance in a cleanup, the United States inaugurated its first major effort to address the environmental effects of the long war.

“This morning we celebrate a milestone in our bilateral relationship,” David B. Shear, the American ambassador to Vietnam, said at a ceremony attended by senior officers of the Vietnamese military. “We’re cleaning up this mess.”

The program, which is expected to cost $43 million and take four years, was officially welcomed with smiles and handshakes at the ceremony. But bitterness remains here. Agent Orange is mentioned often in the news media, and victims are commemorated annually on Aug. 10, the day in 1961 when American forces first tested spraying it in Vietnam. The government objected to Olympics sponsorship this year by Dow Chemical, a leading producer of Agent Orange during the war. Many here have not hesitated to call the American program too little — it addresses only the one site — and very late.

 

“It’s a big step,” said Ngo Quang Xuan, a former Vietnamese ambassador to the United Nations. “But in the eyes of those who suffered the consequences, it’s not enough.”

Over a decade of war, the United States sprayed about 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, halting only after scientists commissioned by the Agriculture Department issued a report expressing concerns that dioxin showed “a significant potential to increase birth defects.” By the time the spraying stopped, Agent Orange and other herbicides had destroyed 2 million hectares, or 5.5 million acres, of forest and cropland, an area roughly the size of New Jersey.

Nguyen Van Rinh, a retired lieutenant general who is now the chairman of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, has vivid memories of hearing American aircraft above the jungles of southern Vietnam and seeing Agent Orange raining down in sheets on him and his troops. Plants and animals exposed to the defoliant were dead within days. Many of his troops later suffered illnesses that he suspects were linked to the repeated exposure to Agent Orange, used in concentrations 20 to 55 times that of normal agricultural use.

“I would like to have one message sent to the American people,” Mr. Rinh said in his office, where a large bust of Ho Chi Minh, the wartime leader and icon, stared down from a shelf behind his desk. “The plight of Agent Orange victims continues. I think the relationship would rise up to new heights if the American government took responsibility and helped their victims and address the consequences.”

Those who have worked on the issue say the American government has been slow to address the issue in part because of concerns about liability. It took years for American soldiers who sprayed the chemicals to secure settlements from the chemical companies that produced them. The United States government, which also lagged in acknowledging the problem, has spent billions of dollars on disability payments and health care for American soldiers who came into contact with Agent Orange.

Mr. Shear, the American ambassador, sidestepped a reporter’s question after the ceremony about whether the United States would take responsibility for the environmental and health effects of Agent Orange.

“There is a disconnect between what America has done for its soldiers and what America has done for Vietnam,” said Charles Bailey, the director of the Agent Orange in Vietnam Program, an effort by the Aspen Institute, a nongovernmental organization based in Washington, to reach common ground between the United States and Vietnam on the issue. “I’m sometimes glad I’m not a U.S. diplomat in trying to square that circle.”

A class-action case against chemical companies filed in the United States on behalf of millions of Vietnamese was dismissed in 2005 on the grounds that supplying the defoliant did not amount to a war crime and that the Vietnamese plaintiffs had not established a clear causal effect between exposure to Agent Orange and their health problems. The United States government is rolling out a modest $11.4 million program to help people with disabilities in Vietnam, but it is not explicitly linked to Agent Orange. The oft-repeated American formulation is “assistance regardless of cause.”

When environmental factors are linked to disease, proof positive is sometimes hard to determine. American military studies have outlined connections between Agent Orange and myriad ailments, while Dow Chemical maintains that the “very substantial body of human evidence on Agent Orange establishes that veterans’ illnesses are not caused by Agent Orange.”

In Vietnam, there are many cases in which links to Agent Orange appear striking.

Nguyen Van Dung, 42, moved to Da Nang in 1996 with his wife and newborn daughter and worked at the former American base, wading through the knee-deep mud of drainage ditches and dredging them with a shovel. During the first 10 years, he, like other employees, harvested fish and eels from the large ponds and canals on the air base grounds, taking them home almost daily. Studies later showed high concentrations of dioxin in the fat tissue and organs of the fish.

The couple’s first daughter is now at the top of her class, but their second child, also a girl, was born in 2000 with a rare blood disease. She died at 7.

Their son Tu was born in 2008, and he was quickly found to have the same blood condition. With regular transfusions, he has defied his doctor’s prediction that he would not live past 3, but he is nearly blind, with bulging eyes that roll wildly, and he speaks in high-pitched tones that only his parents can understand. His chest cavity is so weak that he cannot breathe if he lies on his stomach.

What caused the birth defects, and who is to blame? Detailed medical tests are out of the question for Tu’s parents, whose combined monthly income is the equivalent of $350, much of which goes to medical care.

But Luu Thi Thu, the boy’s mother, does not hesitate to assign blame.

“If there hadn’t been a war and Americans hadn’t sprayed dioxin and chemicals into this area, we wouldn’t be suffering these consequences,” she said.

“What happened to my son is already done, and nothing can change that,” she said. “The American and Vietnamese governments need to clean up the Da Nang airport so that the next generation will not be affected.”

Le Ke Son, a doctor and the most senior Vietnamese official responsible for the government’s programs related to Agent Orange and other chemicals used during the war, said the debates should take a back seat to aid. “We spend a lot of time arguing about the reason why people are disabled,” he said. “One way or another they are victims and suffered from the legacy of the war. We should do something for them.”