By Maria Contreras-Sweet
Sept. 5, 1882, was a Tuesday. That day, five local unions in New York City reserved the city’s largest park for a massive celebration of its laborers. The organizers were concerned no one would show up on a work day. But on that Tuesday, 20,000 people came out to celebrate. One newspaper called it “a day of the people.” Today, we call it Labor Day.
As summer winds down and school buses reappear on the road, let’s take a moment in between bites of barbecue and family fun to remember the reason for the season: the workers who fuel America’s growth – in particular, the small business workers who’ve had an outsized impact on this nation’s improving economy.
Over the last five and a half years, businesses have added more than 13 million jobs. Our unemployment rate has fallen to 5.1 percent – a seven-year low. Our GDP rose 3.7 percent in the second quarter, some of our strongest growth since the Great Recession and a testament to the sweat and resilience of the American worker.
Let’s also give special thanks to our 60 million small business workers who account for half of our private-sector labor force and produce 45 percent of our private-sector GDP. Our small business workforce looks like America, employing more minorities and accounting for two-thirds of seniors, rural workers and persons with disabilities in the private sector.
While Labor Day traditional focuses on employees, one of the great things about the United States is that you can hire yourself – especially in hard economic times. Nearly a million people struggling through the Great Recession turned to entrepreneurship to make ends meet during our recent recovery. So today, in addition to employees, we salute the more than 22 sole proprietors who work as CEO, COO, Chief Sales Officer, Chief-Marketing Officer, Customer Service Director, receptionist and everything else all at once.
I know many entrepreneurs feel that their employees are family, which helps explain why 81 percent of small business employees report being satisfied with their jobs. This Labor Day, the Small Business Administration reaffirms our commitment to give entrepreneurs the tools they need to make sure their “work family” has access to a secure retirement.
The federal government is now giving small business owners access to a workplace retirement plan for their workers called myRA. Employers don’t have to administer employee accounts, contribute to them, or match employee contributions. If you run a small business, I encourage you to click this link to learn how myRA can help your workers retire in comfort and dignity. They’ve earned it.
Whether your weekend celebration happens at a parade, in front of the TV, around your family’s table, or with 20,000 friends in a park, let’s pause to appreciate the American workers who’ve built the world’s strongest economy. Happy Labor Day, America.
Maria Contreras-Sweet is the 24th administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and serves on President Obama’s cabinet. Earlier in her career she founded the first Latino-formed commercial bank in California in more than 35 years. This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.
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