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The Sandy Spring Way

September Observations

September 4th, 2013 | By Beau Mercer

FredericBurkeMaking your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got; Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same; you wanna be where everybody knows your name.”

—Gary Portnoy – Theme from “Cheers”

Cheers is a bar/restaurant located on Beacon Street in Boston. Despite Carla’s numerological concerns, Cheers was founded in 1969. On March 10, 2009, the Boston Globe reported that longtime Cheers bartender Eddie Doyle, with a 35 year tenure that predated Cheers sitcom had been laid off. The Red Sox also traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Job security is a fleeting concept.

Labor Day was originally established by Congress at the bequest of organized labor to honor the social and economic achievements of American workers. Labor Day stood out as a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well being of our country.  In some circles, Labor Day now reflects the anachronism of organized labor and their diminishing influence.  Labor Day has also come to be celebrated as the symbolic end of summer and the beginning of school.
Unions or organized labor have been shrinking in terms of both membership and power for fifty years. Today, only about one out of eight American workers belong to a union. Dues increases, continuing union contributions to political campaigns, and union member’s diligent voter-turnout efforts, have kept unions’ political power from ebbing as much as their membership. Offshoring, automation, and other changes in manufacturing have put the traditional industrial unions at a disadvantage in pursuing tried and true negotiating methods.

Corporations are focused on moving capital to global markets where they can generate greater profits at the expense of the domestic labor force. Work can be bought and sold. Where unions matter in the United States the auto industry, public education, and print journalism, financial skepticism persists. The recent sale of the Washington Post illustrates how the value of intellectual capital (despite organized labor representation) is minimized by technology. Organized labor played a major role in electing President Obama. Possibly as a consequence, union health and pension plans were taken into account in the restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler. Despite political successes, unions find themselves in as marginal a position in American society as they have been in 100 years. Union job creation opportunities exist, such as economically targeted investments with organized labor financial support, but only after a demonstration of lasting financial viability.

The economy has changed radically since Congress passed the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act in 1983. The Humphrey Hawkins act explicitly instructed the nation to strive toward four ultimate goals: full employment, growth in production, price stability and balance of trade and budget. That was then; we are now dealing with now! The economic primacy of the United States has been  subsumed by the emerging markets and others. {The Humphrey Hawkins Act mandated that by 1983 the unemployment rates should not be more than 3% for persons aged 20 or over and inflation rates should not be over 4%.} The Humphrey Hawkins Act expired but the act reinforced the Federal Reserve Board’s dual mandate of promotion of full employment and price stability.

Organized labor has been at the forefront of socially responsible or economically targeted investing. The socially responsible investing approach is to invest in stocks, bonds, and real estate of those companies that promote certain actions, such as increased employment in a certain industry. Socially responsible investing evolved during the political climate of the 1960’s.  During the 60’s socially conscious investors increasingly sought to address equality for women, civil rights, and labor interests. Fifty years later the investment environment has radically changed with an increased sensitivity to investable assets and returns.

Labor Day 2013 is a day in which we celebrate the united contributions of a workforce which created the capacity for the expansive economy of the country. Organized labor enabled consensus building and helped immigrants, blacks, and women gain access to the American Dream. The evolution of the global economy, the productivity of technology and a culture of independent minded workers has muted the accomplishments of many very dedicated individuals.

If tomorrow all things were gone: I’d worked for all my life: And I had to start again: with just my children and wife: I’d thank my lucky stars to be living in the USA.”

— Lee Greenwood “God Bless the USA.”

—Fred