What comes to mind when you think of Labor Day? Summer ending? Barbeque? Football season fast approaching?
All are valid. But how about working people’s rights, dignity and fair wages that many of your ancestors fought so hard to achieve?
Maintaining those rights is why now, over 100 years after the first Labor Day Parade in NYC, people still march all over the nation. In 1882, unionists proposed a day be set aside to honor working people. Today we salute that tradition.
It’s become trendy to knock unions, and some of them deserve knocking. But before the union movement, this nation was cursed with sweatshops, child labor, and other horrid working conditions that plagued America in the early 20th century.
Many workers had their skulls cracked open marching for fair wages and decent treatment on the job. Today, even those Americans who never belonged to a union benefit from the reforms they achieved.
Meanwhile, some politicians belittle these contributions and seem intent on destroying unions and the protections they offer.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has relentlessly demonized and crippled his states’ unions, virtually ending collective bargaining for teachers, sanitation workers and other employees.
It’s no accident that income inequality has risen as union membership has declined. An Economic Policy Institute Report released last week shows that the share of men in unionized private sector jobs plunged from 34% in 1979 to 10% today.
Many feel that the economic deck is stacked against them and income inequality has spiraled out of control__ and they’re not wrong.
Those marching in this year’s Labor Day parades just want to see cops, teachers, nurses and other working men and women get a fair shake. They don’t take sick days, fair pay, and safe conditions in the workplace for granted. They know that without constant vigilance, they can easily disappear once again.
So if you’re at a barbeque, the beach, or just relaxing in the backyard today, take a moment to think about the real meaning of Labor Day.
Those who sacrificed their bodies, jobs and livelihoods so you could have this day off to relax and enjoy life.