Posted by: chlost | September 5, 2011

If you enjoyed your Labor Day weekend, thank a union member

This is a re-post from last year. Considering all of the political struggles we’ve been dealing with since then, I thought it would be a reminder of where we are as well as how we got there.

Enjoy your day!

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, has become a mainstay of the American psyche. We look to the three-day Labor Day holiday as the harbinger of fall. In many areas of the country, schools schedule their yearly start around the holiday, beginning the new academic year the Tuesday after the holiday. Most people think of the holiday as the last weekend of summer, with many traditional reunions, trips and picnics scheduled for the holiday weekend. Many people go out of town, to the cabin, or the shore for the weekend.

The Labor Day holiday is just over 100 years old. Of course,that is just about half the life of the United States itself, but it is not nearly as old as religious holidays which have been celebrated in this country since its founding, and which go back beyond then.

The first Labor Day was celebrated on a Tuesday, back in 1882. In 1884, the traditional first Monday in September was chosen as a “workingmen’s holiday”.  This holiday was started in New York, by group called the Central Labor Union. It was celebrated by other union groups as the labor movement grew. The first law passed recognizing the holiday was in Oregon in 1887. Congress passed legislation establishing a national legal holiday in 1894. In the beginning, the holiday focused on large parades and a festival for the workers and their families.

All of this information was found on the Department of Labor website  www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.htm  .

As you may have guessed, I am a member of a union. I am certainly not a “workingman”, but my husband, who is also a member of the same union/local is considered a workingman. Unfortunately, he is working today while I am not. At least he receives holiday pay.

I am not a passionate union supporter. I pay my dues. The union has not done a lot for me or my husband; their negotiations have been unimpressive in recent years, even before the current economic downturn. In my view, unions must make changes which take into account the changing world. They will become irrelevant if they do not. So far, they have not. They don’t even seem to appreciate their imminent demise if they do not make changes.

There is definitely a future for unions in some form. If you have ever read of the sweatshops and child labor used in many developing countries, as well as in a few remaining areas of the U.S., you would see the necessity of workers joining together to equalize their power in the social contract called employment.

As pointed out in the Dept of Labor site, “The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership-the American worker.”

So, as you enjoy this last weekend of the summer, think of the working people who have made it possible.

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Responses

  1. Half my career I worked in banking. There was never a need for a union and it was a great place to work, even though I was not that interested in the industry itself.

    The second half of my career was with the State Dept. of Human Services. I was in SEIU local 503. There the employers created the conditions which had created the need for a union, just the opposite of my former banking employer.

    The advances gained for working people by unions, 5-day week, overtime, benefits, have all been forgotten. Now unions are vilified. But as the abuses creep back into the workplace, as employers push people to the wall again, they will cause unions to rise again… as they already are in China!

  2. God bless those fine folks. I just started working somewhere I get holidays such as this one off, so perfect timing.

  3. As I was growing up my father, who was born in 1922, made sure that I was well informed about how much the unions did to improve the lot of American workers, and at what cost. It’s sad that some unions seem to have been corrupted themselves, and that others seem to be losing so much of their influence. Institutions never find it easy to evolve with the times. Change is often painful and slow.

    Thanks so much for the timely reminder!

  4. I grew up in a blue collar union family and was, in my years with Ma Bell, a member of the Communications Workers of America and have walked a picket line. I have never wavered in my support of unions and never will. The unions made workers strong and a pox on those who have weakened them! I’ve joined the fight in Ohio and will continue to do all I can to help their cause.


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