Director's Spotlight - September 2010
Labor Day: A Tribute to Missouri WorkersA column by Larry Rebman, Missouri Labor Department Director
On June 28, 1894, the United States Congress designated the first Monday of each September as Labor Day. Labor Day is the creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to honoring the social and economic advances brought about by the American worker. The very existence of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is the result of the contribution that the hardworking men and women of Missouri have made to our state and our country.
When Labor Day was first celebrated more than a century ago, the workplace was much harsher than it is today. It was not uncommon for men, women and children to work 11-hours a day, six days a week. Manufacturing, mining and construction jobs were incredibly dangerous. But the American worker was too resourceful and resilient to let things remain this way. Workers began organizing into unions, bargaining for safer workplaces and shorter workweeks and sought legislation to make those benefits available to all workers. Today, the Missouri Department of Labor enforces the state’s child labor laws, overtime and minimum wage law, prevailing wage laws, unemployment insurance, workers compensation laws, discrimination laws and occupational health and mine safety laws. As a result, our lives are longer, our families safer, and our work more productive.
Looking back can reflect on how far we have come. A Center for Disease Control (CDC) study found that deaths resulting from work-related injuries declined 90% between 1933 and 1997. During this same period the workforce more than tripled, from 39 million to 130 million. But while that happened, the annual number of deaths fell from 14,500 to 5,100. This progress has spared hundreds of thousands of families, employers, and communities the pain and economic hardship of the loss of a loved one.
This year marked the 75th Anniversary of the enactment of the Unemployment Insurance program. Since 1935, $871 billion in unemployment benefits have been paid to 481 million unemployed workers. These benefits stimulate local economies by preventing foreclosures and evictions, putting food on tables, and filling up gas tanks so people have a bridge between jobs.
This year, the Division of Employment Security staff has worked overtime and weekends to process hundreds of thousands of unemployment claims and over $1 billion in unemployment compensation. The Division of Worker’s Compensation has processed more than 75,000 reported work injuries and referred 218 cases of fraud or noncompliance for prosecution against employers who did not comply with the workers’ compensation laws. The Division of Labor Standards has assisted in recovering more than $562,000 in unpaid wages. The Missouri Commission processed 1,224 charges of discrimination. The on-site safety consultants have identified and corrected 4,317 workplace hazards and the Mine safety unit has identified and corrected 865 hazards.
The working men and women of the Missouri Department of Labor are honored to be a part of the tradition that has helped make the United States the greatest country in the world. Every day, our work celebrates those who created – and those who benefit from – these important programs that improve the lives and working conditions of all Americans. Have a safe and happy Labor Day.
Director's Spotlight Archives
November 2011 - Native American Heritage Month
October 2011 - National Disability Employment Awareness
September 2011 - Labor Day: A Tribute to Missouri's Leadership in Worker Protection
April 2011 - How Housing Fraud Can Crush the American Dream
January 2011 - Worker Misclassification is Bad for Business
December 2010 - Working for the Holidays
November 2010 - Unemployment Benefits: Transitioning to Jobs
October 2010 - Protecting a Precious Industry
September 2010 - Labor Day: A Tribute to Missouri Workers
August 2010 - WorkReadyMissouri: Enhancing Missouri's Workforce
July 2010 - Workers' Compensation: Stepping Up Efforts against those Cheating the System
June 2010 - Preparing Missouri for the Evolving Economy
May 2010 - Workers' Memorial Day 2010
April 2010 - Missouri's Unemployment Update