The brutal struggles of Capital and Labor in the 1800s may seem far away in 2014, but they continue to this day. Now there’s less blood, but a good deal more money.

Why do we have a Labor Day? Wikipedia says:

Labor Day in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.

. . . After the Haymarket Massacre, which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886, U.S. President Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the affair. Thus, in 1887, it was established as an official holiday in September . . . .

Which is why most of the world celebrates Labor Day on May 1 and we don’t.

The big issue in the 1880s was the 8 hour day – at the same pay as the 10 hour/6 days a week then standard. Outrageous! How could a factory owner possibly make any money?

Really, an 8 hour day? Who in tech works one of those?

Yet the battle continues
A group of billionaires decides that not recruiting each other’s engineers would be convenient. Tens of thousands of engineers weren’t allowed to compete for higher paying and more challenging work.

Employing tens of thousands of engineers, the billionaire’s agreement had many effects. Some number of engineers will find their lifetime income cut because they couldn’t get a higher paying job.

Smaller companies whose talent is suddenly more desirable might have wondered why it was so hard to keep good engineers. The State of California also lost substantial income tax revenue as well.

The settlement the companies reached with plaintiffs – but which a judge refused – is a fraction of what higher wages would have cost them. Good for business. Bad for people.

The StorageMojo take
Class war? It’s over. Just mopping up.

How to overcome the ease with which a half dozen executives can blight the work lives of tens of thousands? The traditional answer is unions, but is there a better one?

Of course, decades of anti-union propaganda has convinced Americans that union are a Bad Thing. But look at Germany, where unions are strong and sit on company boards, to see a system where workers are respected and the economy is strong.

But perhaps the power of social networking can be harnessed to organize 60,000 engineers as easily as a half dozen billionaires. That would be a uniquely Silicon Valley answer to the power and economic fissures in America today.

Courteous comments welcome, of course.