Thomas J. Donohue Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


September 03, 2018


For many Americans, Labor Day means a day off work, barbeques with family and friends, college football, and – sadly – the unofficial end of summer. While each of those are a part of Labor Day, it’s also worth taking a moment to remember why the holiday was established to begin with. It is meant to be a celebration of the contributions that American workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our nation. Those contributions are worth saluting today and every day throughout the year – and business leaders are proud to do exactly that in a number of ways.

America’s job creators and business leaders are committed to helping their employees succeed at work, earn good wages, provide for their families, and have the resources they need to lead healthy and secure lives. To that end, employers paid $8.4 trillion in wages and salaries last year, and that’s only the start. They spent an additional $1.9 trillion on employee benefits.

One of the most popular benefits in the private sector is employer-sponsored health care, which approximately 178 million Americans received in 2016. Many employers find that providing health care is not only the right thing to do, but it is an important way to attract the best talent and foster a healthy, productive workforce. In 2016, total health benefit costs averaged $12,229 per employee.

Businesses also help workers save and plan for the future. Private employers provided more than $255 billion worth of retirement benefits in 2017. Millions of businesses offer defined contribution plans, which are tremendously popular with employees. Nearly 90% of eligible employees participate in this type of plan. Many other options are made available to workers, including defined benefit and profit-sharing plans.

We don’t share these figures to pat ourselves on the back but, rather, to illustrate that America’s workers and their well-being and success are priorities for businesses. As employers compete for the best workers, more and more are making it a core part of their business plans to offer exceptional benefits – from workplace amenities to generous family leave policies to paid vacation and more.

Business owners who can afford to offer outstanding benefits are often eager to do so. This is one of the many reasons it’s good for everyone when businesses are able to compete, grow, and succeed. So as we celebrate American workers on Labor Day, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce remains committed to honoring them every day by advancing a robust free enterprise system that lifts the economy for all.

About the authors

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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