Editorials

California’s well-earned Labor Day

Minimum wage increase supporters rally outside of the State Capitol in March upon hearing that the Assembly voted to increase California's minimum wage to $15. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law the following month.
Minimum wage increase supporters rally outside of the State Capitol in March upon hearing that the Assembly voted to increase California's minimum wage to $15. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law the following month. aseng@sacbee.com

Labor Day weekend is upon us again, and we will celebrate the American ideal: a steady, good-paying job.

This being an election year, Labor Day usually marks the traditional kickoff of the presidential campaign. The Democrat goes to Detroit, and the Republican goes to Nashville or someplace like that, they pledge that they’ll wage an aggressive effort for the American people, and then we all hurrah and hope for the best.

This year, however, it seems like the 2016 campaign kickoff was sometime back during the Victorian Era, and by Labor Day, no one is all that interested in the race.

So, Labor Day will be marked more as the usual punctuation mark to the end of summer than as a political moment. We will barbecue, play Frisbee, yell at the kids to avoid putting an eye out with the marshmallow stick, pet wet dogs freshly emerged from the river, do the little sidestep dance shuffle away from the Weber grill smoke, and otherwise revel in the last long summer weekend.

In California, we observe Labor Day as the weekend where the temperatures dip into the low 70s at 10 p.m., sweaters are brought out poolside, and we give passing thought to really getting around to cleaning the garage now that it’s not like a convection oven and, maybe, cleaning the mildew off the hot tub cover.

Labor Day is the commencement of back to school (or, really, we went back last week, but hey) and the onset of the bitterly cold California winters (“It was 34 last night!”) down here on the Delta and in the Central Valley.

With a $15 minimum wage, farmworker overtime, expanded parental leave and 5.5 percent unemployment, workers here can, and should, celebrate.

Our fellow citizens in Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and all the other frigid climes dread the inevitable Alberta Clipper and lake effect blizzards. They’ll have to jump start their cars, sharpen their ice skates, and otherwise prepare for another hard winter.

Here we just pray for a little bit (buckets, please) of rain so that we may continue the California lifestyle another year. It ain’t gonna snow in Sacramento, but we love visiting that onslaught in Tahoe and the Sierra.

Officially, of course, Labor Day is a moment to reflect upon the state of the worker in this country. In California, workers have had much to celebrate.

Thanks to the muscle of organized labor in this Democrat-dominated blue state, Californians this year won a $15 minimum wage, and teachers beat back laws that would have made it easier to fire them. Awaiting a signature from the governor are measures giving farmworkers overtime after a 40-hour workweek, and small-business employees job protection should they take parental leave.

Meanwhile, the state’s economy continued to do well, becoming the world’s sixth largest by some measures. The recession is behind us; the statewide unemployment rate, 12.2 percent on Labor Day of 2010, was down to 5.5 percent at last count.

Are we all living the dream? Perhaps not. But mapping the space between downsized expectations and the American ideal sounds like labor, at least for today. Better to turn down the Trump, fire up the grill and toast the weekend. Three cheers for an extra day off.

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