Reflect on Labor Day and our future

Google “Labor Day 2017” and you’re as likely to find tips on holiday weekend sales in the stores, travel tips or end-of-summer barbecue recipes.

While Labor Day continues to serve as the “end of summer” holiday (it was moreso when the schoolchildren returned to the classrooms on the day after the holiday) it should be about more than firing up the grill one more time.

People fought for protections for workers in a time not so long ago. The fight led to safer workplaces, the rise of the middle class and benefit packages that helped build a nation. It is argued that the whole system went too far and we’re paying today for that across many sectors of the economy.

In our region, it is clear that change has arrived for the work force. Gone are the days of working a lifetime at the steel mill or the coal mine. Gone are the community supports those industries provided, through pay to the workers and direct community donations. Even the stability of power plant jobs is threatened as the nation shifts away from coal-fired electric generation.

Labor Day thus should be about reflection, about the basic human decency of having a job, working well at it and living in a nation where we’re free to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Work in the area is changing to the energy sector.

It is an interesting Labor Day this year for the region, with a recently released West Virginia University study saying as many as 100,000 jobs could rise if the area indeed becomes an ethane storage hub.

Work is under way in Monaca on one of the basic foundation blocks of the energy economy for the region in the Royal Dutch Shell ethane cracker under construction. PTT Global is in the final stages of mulling a go or no-go decision on a Belmont County cracker.

The plants bring the opportunity for many ancillary jobs serving the chemical and plastics industry, for which more factories would need to be built. And, those factories generally are located to the supplier of their feedstock, the cracker plants.

All of which means the pride of being able to work a full day and enjoying the fruits of that labor can become an opportunity for more people in the area and those who would come to the area to make a new home and find their opportunity.

It’s something to think about and hope for on Labor Day 2017.

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