Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005
Hurricane Devastation Underscores Labor Day Meaning
The city of New Orleans and the eastern Gulf Coast states, particularly Mississippi, are experiencing first-hand the tremendous impact Hurricane Katrina is already having on employment. The loss of infrastructure and the inability of businesses to operate, even after the flooding recedes, will prevent many from returning to jobs for an unspecified length of time. Texas is welcoming their refugees, and this is a first step toward helping them rebuild.
Louisiana is our neighbor, and we have much in common with them and the state of Mississippi. Their decimated economies could negatively affect us, and the destruction of the oil refineries are heavily impacting most of the nation through exorbitant gas prices. We must all brace ourselves for the worst and remain thankful that our own Hurricane Emily earlier this summer did not wreak such devastation.
What we can laud are the heroic and untiring efforts of our emergency, medical and military personnel to help in numerous capacities. They are laboring with no thought of their own safety and comfort. Many are volunteers; nonetheless they are working as hard alongside paid individuals.
This Labor Day should remind us of the importance of developing a strong economy and training our current and future workforce with the necessary skills for jobs above-minimum wage. We must honor our teachers for the work they do in preparing our future workforce. It is a time to remember that our own area still lags behind the rest of the nation economically, with a negative impact on our local workforce.
Employment reports, however, are showing promise for our area, even though it has the highest unemployment rates in the state. The latest statistics by the Texas Workforce Commission indicated that unemployment in July was 7.2 percent in Brownsville-Harlingen and 7.7 percent in the McAllen area, down from 8.8 percent and 9.4 percent respectively, in July 2004.
It is rewarding to see that for the most part, people in South Texas maintain a strong work ethic and value employment. The work ethic is part of the Hispanic culture, but also part of the culture of this country. It was such an integral part of our nation's character that in 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill making Labor Day an official national holiday.
Employment is the core of survival, quality of life, and a prosperous economy. Our municipalities, counties, states and our national government must continue to both honor our workers and seek ways to decrease unemployment and assist those who lose their jobs.
We all know people who work two or maybe even three jobs, or who routinely work overtime. We all know people who work hard everyday and then go home to work just as hard making meals, helping their children do their homework and working around the house. These are the people that keep our economy strong, and they range from low-skilled workers to professionals, from teachers to doctors, and even soldiers returning home from Iraq.
This Labor Day, we should take the opportunity to thank all those whose hard work and dedication have resulted in prosperity for so many Texans. I also encourage individuals, families and organizations to reach into their pockets and give whatever they can to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina so they can return to normalcy and to employment.
At home, we must ensure that the Texas economy continues to grow and that all Texans can share in that prosperity. During the 79th regular legislative session, we passed Senate Bill 593, legislation that requires the Governor's Office to conduct a study to review how states and countries with leading economies based on information, ideas and technology have structured economic development programs to match business needs and identify emerging technologies with Texas' economy. Entire new industries and markets--the Internet, information technology, broadband communications, biotechnology and nanotechnology-- now drive the economy. This study will propel Texas into developing this aspect of our economy for better employment opportunities.
Depending on the region, Texas relies on oil refineries, farming and ranching, higher education, the health fields and local and state governments for employment. All of these are vital sources of employment, but we must also look to new and innovative areas that improve our economy and overall well-being, while providing needed jobs now and in the future, especially in South Texas and along the Border. As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact my office in Austin at 512-463-0127, Brownsville at 956-548-0227 or Weslaco at 956-968-9927. Also, visit my website at the Official Texas Senate Home Page, http://www.senate.state.tx.us/.