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


September 01, 2017


On Labor Day many Americans enjoy a day off to spend with friends and family—and for good reason. Our country’s workers are some of the most creative, productive, and resilient in the world, and together they drive the most dynamic economy in history. A day off to honor their efforts and achievements is well deserved. But they also deserve to be rewarded throughout the year—and employers work hard to ensure that they are.

Business leaders are committed to helping their employees become fulfilled in their work, earn a good wage, provide for their families, and have the resources and support they need to lead healthy and comfortable lives. For example, employers paid roughly $8 trillion in wages and salaries last year, and that’s only the beginning. 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 150 million Americans received in 2015. 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 $11,920 per employee.

Businesses also help workers save and plan for the future. Private sector employers provided $242.3 billion worth of retirement benefits in 2016. Millions of businesses offer defined contribution plans, which are tremendously popular with employees. Nearly 90% of employees are eligible to participate in these types of plans. Many other options are also 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 remind those who question the motives of business that we care a great deal about the welfare of our employees—and are willing to spend big to protect them. More and more employers are making it a core part of their business plans to offer exceptional benefits to employees—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—including workers, families, and communities—when businesses are able to compete, grow, and succeed. So if we really want to honor American workers on Labor Day, and each day, we must advance a robust free enterprise system that lifts the economy for all people.

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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