A country that works: Tribute to working Americans everywhere

Brianna Bishop

From balancing several jobs at once to sitting in rush hour traffic twice a day, American workers have a lot to handle. Though the experience of each American employee differs from the next,  there are certain common experiences, positive and negative, among members of the labor force.

So whether you work a nine-to-five job or set your own hours; if you love your job or are seeking new career paths; whether you work at a desk or in the great outdoors — September 1 is your day. Happy Labor Day.


$6.55 per hour will be the new minimum wage in the United States effective

July 24. In July 2009, the rate will go up to $7.25 per hour.

5.3 percent of American employees are multi-job holders, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were 7.7 million people holding more than one job in May.

The average commute time in the 2003 American Community Survey was 24.3

minutes with New York and Maryland averaging the highest times. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American workers average 100 hours commuting annually.

15.7 million workers belonged to a union in 2007, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Public sector employees are five times more likely to be in a union than those in the private sector.

The federal government excluding the postal service employs 1.8 million people, the BLS states, making it the largest employer in the American job market.

There were 5,734 fatal occupational injuries in 2006, according to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. The fatal injury rate for every 100,000 people is four. Employees in the fishing industry and logging as well as pilots and flight engineers top the list of most dangerous professions, according to

During the NCAA Basketball Tournament, an estimated 37.3 million workers participate in office pools, research from Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc states. About 1.5 million follow games on the Internet while on the clock.

A 5.8 percent unemployment rate in 2008 has been the lowest yet in the past decade, BLS data shows. The current jobless rate in America is 4.5 percent with 6.9 million unemployed persons.

21 percent of workers would like a change in careers, according to a Career Vision survey conducted by Harris Interactive. But 45 percent of employees are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their jobs. Job dissatisfaction runs higher among younger workers.

Before the historical Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911, which brought attention to the unfair factory labor practices at work, employees of the factory worked more than 80 hours a week. According to the AFL-CIO, the average shift was from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days per week, which brought home about $6 at the end of each workweek. With these hours, their hourly wages equaled about 7 cents per hour.


Movements in labor; key dates to know

April 27, 1825 Carpenters in Boston were the first to stage a strike for the 10-hour work-day.

1866 The National Labor Union formed. The first national labor federation inthe U.S.

July 1903 Labor organizer Mary Harris ('Mother’) Jones leads child workers in demanding a 55 hour work week.

March 15, 1917 The Supreme Court approved the Eight-our Act under the threat of a national railway strike.

June 20, 1941 Henry Ford recognizes the UAW.