Labor in the Supply Chain

In light of our most recent American holiday, Labor Day, we must take a moment to remember the achievements of those before us and their contributions to the world we have collectively made for ourselves.  Labor Day began as a street parade to celebrate the trade and labor organizations, initially, to right wrongs done unto Labor Unions during the Pullman Strike.  Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 and has been celebrated since on the first Monday of September.   To further commemorate the civil significance of the holiday, it became a tradition for community leaders, men and women, to give speeches on progress and their own experiences.

Labor Day has become much more casual as of late.  We often take that day of rest for granted. Those lucky enough to be employed celebrate employment by being unemployed for the day.  Marked by many as a great excuse to break out the barbecues, we have somewhat forgotten the significance of Labor Day and what our ancestors and fellow Americans went through to get us the working conditions we have today.  We must also remember that this is an ongoing struggle.  With a 7.4 percent unemployment rate and job creation lagging increasingly far behind our competitors there hardly seems reason to kick back and grill some burgers.

Just like every supply chain has a unique story, every supply chain has a unique labor story.  Labor is in a state of decline.  According to the Supply Chain Digest “labor is succumbing to a host of threats.  1) Too many unskilled workers for the number of blue collar jobs.  2) Ever-present threat that the work could be moved offshore or even just to lower cost/non-union area of the US.  3) Increasing threat of automation replacing the humans.”  Working conditions are often very poor, whether unionized or not, and those trying to make a living for themselves and their families can find it very difficult to make ends meet.

So where do we go from here?  It is easy list off solutions: create more jobs, keep labor local, create better working conditions…but how?  As workers contributing to the American workforce, we must come up with tactics to achieve these solutions and not just solutions alone.

Supply Chains must be sustainable and that includes the manual labor that goes into the flow of these supply chains.  Let’s get this conversation of labor in America going.

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