CUC on Labor Day


CUC finally got us online. Hooray!

The U.S. celebrates American labor movement on the first Monday of September, hurriedly approved by the U.S. Congress in 1887 so that the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago of May 4 of the year before, which got the International Workers’ Day established as 1st of May, would not carry a socialist flavor on U.S. labor. Eighty countries kept theirs on May Day.

No matter. It is the worker remarkably among CUC’s linemen that interest us. From farms as resource gatherers originally, involving fishermen in the Pacific, miners in Africa, and ag-pickers of Norte America, they graduated to the urban industrial plants that processed resource into goods, then into service providers.

Workers staffed factory lines to ensure similarity of products; mass produced items like the T-Ford to lower cost, created a consumer society led by moneyed barons. Bright minds discovered marketing has to do with what shoppers felt, what images populated minds, rather than the actual value of goods; our mode of distribution moved to the regions of the heart. Fads and fashions took over common sense, the manipulation of imagination ruled marketing, and the stock market took our money to the bank.

Organized labor in the industrial era meant workers in the production line. Resource gatherers were hardly organized and the deliverers of services moved into the category of service providers rather than labor. Labor Day became the lowly workers’ day, a political concession to the days when labor unions could “make or break” a business.

Knowing now that the economic system of any nation, state, or city involves resource access, production means, and lines of distribution rolled together as one, couched in the legality to bring order in the marketplace, ensure workers’ just compensation, and aimed for the workers wellbeing directed toward the wisdom, style and symbol of a network of interdependencies, we deal with meaningful economics beyond what has been reduced to the measure of money.

But the theme of “money, money, money makes the world go round” coerces. Don’t worry, make money, is the title of a little book my Chinese ward reads, written by a Caucasian circa 1998. The author measures the quality of person’s character by the thickness of the wad in the pocket, or the bottom line figure in the bank account. 

Part of the universal disdain over Chinese immigrants (it was racial in Hawaii even before Congress’ Chinese Exclusion Act) is the image of a singular preoccupation with making money, more a myth than a reality compared to the rest of the world. In fact, making money is a province of the world’s cultured class regardless of ethnicity and nationality, symbolized by Wall Street.

“Money is dirty” was my mother’s favorite saying, not just so that we do not put a coin in our mouth or the paper wad close to anything that resembled food, but also because of the corruptive influence of the dogged pursuit of the same. Money after all is but the abstracted symbol of a person’s worth, and as MLK dreamt that one day his children would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, I add, nor by the weight of their purses and pocket books.

The pauper with the pure heart was more ideal in my youth (Robin Hood who stole from the rich) than the cigar-chomping cool dude with a Cadillac. It is the face of the numbered broker at the Exchange floor that dominates the news, and last week, we saw tremors as the renminbi “floated” and the rest of the currencies of the world shuddered.

Organized labor lost its vitality and has become a whiner to what it perceives to be persecution from “management.” As the production lines of the auto industry and the railroads became more mechanized, unions lost their punch and organized labor became a relic of the past rather than an alternative working model for the future.

The failure of hotel unions on Saipan testifies to the obsolescence of organized labor as the cutting edge of the economic process as it once was when production was the wedgeblade into the future. Today, it is digitized electronic gadgetry on information storage, retrieval, and dissemination in the service of providing meaning fuels modern economy, an entrepreneurial occupation. Muscle of union shops lost its bulge.

The times discard hierarchical command between the boss as manager and the workers as employees, but on the network of interdependence where mutual trust on colleagues’ abilities, and confidence in the integrity of roles (in the workforce and management) as functions is the character of horizontally aligned workers.

May Day as Labor Day in other countries turned political; Labor Day in September has become simply the end of summer. My workers’ credo is cultural: a task accomplished as fast as possible for the least amount of asset expenditure for the sake of many; the workers’ esprit de corps as manager and/or laborer exemplified by CUC linemen is what I celebrate this day!

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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