Remembering the dignity of labor in the United States

The U.S. is the spiritual home of the global economic boom—a country that has its own richness, as well as a unique history and culture. The unemployment rate fell to 3.7% in September, the lowest level since December 1969, as salaries and wages are rising and American families have more disposable income. New government data showed the U.S. economy grew at a 4.2% annual rate in the second quarter—the fastest pace in nearly four years and highest wages—powered by strong exports, robust consumer spending and healthy business investment. The stock market is strong. Corporate profits are at a record high. Effects of the strong economy are benefitting Black and Hispanic households who were left behind. Now, the United States stands as the most dynamic high-income economy in the world. Our country is doing great. I believe that we have decades of prosperity ahead of us.

It was recently Labor Day—a holiday weekend to take a break from our routines and honor the contributions of those who have built America. But, as we relaxed and reflected and showed gratitude to the workers who built the economy and made America the greatest country in the world, we also should recognize that our celebrations may be short-lived: The U.S. is running out of workers. Baby boomers, who built the modern economic engine, are aging out of the American workforce. Ten thousand boomers reach retirement age each day.

The good news is that the solution is right in front of us. America has an invaluable—and renewable—resource: a young, educated and entrepreneurial Latino population, 57 million strong as of 2016, and growing every day. Hard-line immigration proposals—like deporting the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants who live here—would deliver a brutal economic blow, reducing the size of the workforce. The Trump administration must give this a second chance, just as corporate America is now opening up to giving second chances to citizens who have done their time in prisons. We, at Prince Organization, have been championing this for many years now.

Local governments currently employ more than 19 million people, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Trump administration is closely looking at it, as in the past, good work was infrequently recognized and poor performance often went unaddressed. President Trump has proposed weakening civil-service protections, freezing salaries and slashing retirement programs. There’s little accountability for employee performances and outcomes. The president has promised to reform it, and a few million can find jobs in the private sector, starting as interns to test their talents and excel. Federal and state workers’ pay, too, needs to be structured toward recruiting, retaining and rewarding “high-performing workers and leaders with swagger.”

Immigrants are critical at almost every level of the economy, from service workers to the elite technology guys, and have higher levels of entrepreneurship and the highest majority of franchisee business owners. I am an immigrant. America needs immigrants, more so today than ever in its history: skilled and unskilled seasonal workers, who will come from many countries and contribute to this great nation. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and having a profoundly interesting meeting with the president one day. There will be a discussion of bringing in millions of laborers from the Latin, Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries. Like me, one day, George Washington will be their founding father, The Declaration will be their inspiration and the Constitution their inheritance. America’s future will be their future. In today’s troubled, often harsh and perilous world, the lessons of old have a solid place in reminding us of what America has overcome in the past. We can do it again today. I am glad to be in America; this is what America is supposed to be…the light on the shining hill, a beacon to the rest of the world for hope, as well as a testament to our goodwill served with a strong hand for freedom and equality, all while giving thanks to our Creator for the great blessings bestowed upon us.

At Prince Organization, most of our team members say they are “happy in their work” and “see their lives heading in the right direction,” calling their hospitality jobs “a good career path.” And they are proud of the work they do. They hold the optimistic view that hard work and determination are guarantees of success, and believe the American dream is alive and that their children will also have a better future. I’m grateful and humbled today to be able to say: I love that we can be who we are, do what we love, enjoy what we have, and appreciate where we are. I feel blessed for having the opportunity to experience this journey with my employees. I’m overwhelmed by thankfulness.

We, Americans, are proud of our dignity of work. We are proud of our American grit—a combination of passion and perseverance—setting aside a weekend each year not just for a last summer fling of picnics, beaches, pool parties or grilling, but also to honor what we’ve built and the labor it took to get it done.

Sunny Tolani is the CEO of California-based Prince Organization, a hospitality, real estate development and lifestyle company.

Let us know what you think… To comment on this opinion piece, or to voice your own opinion about pertinent industry topics, please email Editor-in-Chief Christina Trauthwein at [email protected] We’d love to hear from you and share your point of view.

To see content in magazine format, click here.