Random Thoughts on Labor Hashanah

Jewish Women Labor Strikers

It’s always fun when a corporal holiday collides with a religious one.

I write this on Monday which is Labor Day here in the States as well as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, around the world. It feels like we ought to be throwing confetti so long as it is union made confetti from a factory that practices profit sharing, respect for labor, and a low highest paid employee to lowest paid differential.

Those would all be very Jewish ideals and after all, isn’t New Year’s when we think about the ideal way in which to live?

By the way, while it is certainly fine and acceptable to wish your Jewish friends a “Happy New Year” keep in mind that the holiday to follow in a week or so, Yom Kippur, is officially the Day of Atonement when you ask forgiveness from all you may have hurt in the recently ended year. Don’t wish those same friends a “Happy Yom Kippur”, it’s bad form.  Kinda like sending your Catholic friends a sympathy card on Good Friday.

But speaking of Labor Day, Delta Airlines and many other companies have decided the cost of insuring employees against COVID has gotten to the point where they will be imposing at $200 per month surcharge on the health care plans of any unvaccinated employee. In addition

in compliance with state and local laws, COVID pay protection will only be provided to fully vaccinated individuals who are experiencing a breakthrough infection.” Unvaccinated employees who contract Covid, without exemptions, will have to use their sick days after that.

I’m usually not in favor of large corporations picking out a minority of employees and targeting them with lower wages (deducting $200 from their paycheck makes their wages lower) but there are two mitigating factors here.

  1. It’s already being done for other health related matters. For instance, smokers pay a higher premium than non-smokers.
  2. GET THE FREAKING VACCINE. It’s not just about you. This is an airborne communicable disease that has killed 4.5 Million people worldwide and in this instance your “rights” are not greater than anyone else’s right to not be infected. Those same rights you claim come with responsibilities, to your fellow workers, your customers, to the world at large. Just as I have a right to free speech I also have a responsibility to not yell “There’s a gremlin on the wing of the plane trying to make it crash”. (The only time I will go with Shatner over Lithgow)

Back to Rosh Hashanah. I am what is referred to as a “Eating and Gifts” Jew as in I only celebrate the holidays that involve a big feast or presents. Rosh Hashanah is a big feast holiday. Besides looking forward to the new year it is a celebration of the fall harvest. The table groans with the weight of beef brisket, potato kugel, late summer vegetables, and sweets for as far as the eye can see. Not a one of them pumpkin spice flavored for which I am eternally grateful.

Which brings up different cultures ideas of when a “new year” should begin. Different cultures around the world claim the new year as beginning anywhere from late summer/early autumn to the beginning of spring. The ones I find the oddest I have to admit are the ones closest to what we in the western world call the onset of a new year — in the middle of the coldest, darkest period of the year. At least ones centering around the harvest or the spring planting make a certain amount of sense. But really, what is the temporal difference between December 31 and January 1 other than which college football teams are playing? It’s cold and dark, spring is at least three months away, even Punxsutawney Phil can’t be bothered to come out to see his shadow for another month.  No wonder the suicide rate is so high around January 1.

Spring, like Chinese New Year, or autumn, like Jewish New Year make more sense to me. The rebirth of nature or the culmination of the work of the previous year. They are both a time for celebration, introspection, and being thankful for one’s labors.

Ah back to Labor Day. I’m still waiting to see the mashup TV commercial commemorating both holidays.

“Come on down to Crazy Isaac’s for the best Rosh Hashanah Labor Day prices on all our union made in America large appliances! Bad credit? Not a problem at Crazy Isaac’s, we give you credit for all your past sins (so long as you repent them). No credit? If you’ve got a job you can own this French door style Kitchenaid refrigerator for no money down and low monthly payments! But hurry, these deals won’t last for all of 5782 so put down that cheeseburger (it’s trafe!) and get on in to Crazy Isaac’s where we respect both labor and the Jews!”

Respect labor. Ain’t that the truth. Abraham Lincoln once said that in the battle of capital versus labor

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits.

Mutual benefits. Not overwhelming benefits. The bank/venture capitalist/stock market doesn’t deserve a higher share of the company’s profits than the men and women who did the work to create, manage, sustain, develop, sweat over, wake up in the middle of the night because of, and ultimately glory in what the company creates. And all should be sharing in the fruits of those labors, not just the very few who sit at the top.

Anyway, a happy and healthy 5782 to you and yours. And a happy Labor Day to all of us who labor today, have labored in the past, and will labor in the future. Let’s go out with a rallying cry from Woody Guthrie’s spiritual heir Billy Bragg

Shapiro Out

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