On Labor Day, Matthew D. LaPlante reported in the Salt Lake Tribune:

On a day purportedly dedicated to America’s laborers, much of the nation’s labor force remained out in force. According to Development Dimensions International, a human resource consulting firm, about 40 percent of Americans work on Labor Day. Some work because they want to. But most, like [sandwich shop employee Rosemary] Patino, work because they have to.

At the height of her career as a nursing assistant, Patino made $15 an hour. “That’s not great pay,” she said, “but I got full benefits – medical, dental, paid vacations and a 401K.”

Then, about five years ago, Patino hurt her back while helping to move a patient. For a while, she said, her employer helped pay for her rehabilitation, “but then I was on my own.”

And she was on her own in an economy in which American workers – despite significant gains in productivity – are facing shrinking benefits and wages that do not keep up with rising costs.

In other news:

Associated Press: Despite a state law passed three years ago to improve conditions for farmworkers, 11 California workers have died from suspected heat stroke. An AP investigation points to an understaffed labor agency that fails to enforce the law adequately.

Xinhua News Agency: Explosions at a chemical plant in Yizhou city in southern China killed 20 workers.

New York Times: Federal agents raided a Howard Industries manufacturing plant in Laurel, Mississippi and arrested 595 immigrant workers. Immigration experts note that so far there is only a small number of criminal cases, in contrast in the Postville, Iowa raid that resulted in hundreds being prosecuted and sent to jail – possibly signaling a shift in policy following the outcry regarding Postville.

Los Angeles Times: California is strengthening enforcement against employers suspected of violating the law requiring them to have workers’ compensation insurance.

BBC: The Trades Union Congress has issued a report on the dangers of inappropriate footwear at work; it urges employers – particularly the many found to require heels for women – to allow and encourage safe, healthy footwear for employees. (View a PDF of TUC’s report here.)