President Reagan celebrated Labor Day early with a Chicago speech stretching out his hand to America's working men and women. They need all the help they can get as they deal with the largest drop in buying power since 1947 -- and new versions of such problems as cheap foreign competition that concerned founders of the nation's major labor organization, the AFL-CIO, a century ago.
Yet, even in the midst of worker economic conditions that make today's look like paradise, founder Samuel Gompers looked beyond dollars and cents in a way that is only now being caught up with. In Japan, Europe, and more and more in the United States a recognition is arising that the best thing for both labor and management is the fullest development of each individual's potentiality -- something that requires all sorts of mutually respectful, two-way-street working arrangements in addition for fair remuneration.
The language may be different from the days when the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions was established in 1881 -- the parent of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) which came along later in the decade with Gompers as its first president at a salary of $1,000 a year. But the message today is much like what Gompers said:
"I do not value the labor movement only for its ability to give higher wages, better clothes, and better homes -- its ultimate goal is to be found in the progressively evolving life possibilities of those who work. There are such wonderful possibilities in the life of each man and woman!"