(Yes, I am reupping this AGAIN.)
As we go into this last weekend of summer, it’s a great time to gather friends and family for parties and cookouts – and this weekend I’ll be doing some of both – but it’s ALSO a great time to remember what we’re celebrating with our Labor Day holiday: honoring labor and trade organizations, and having a party for workers and their families.
Not consumers, workers.
We are more than consumers – we’re citizens and workers. This day is for us!
The next time you enjoy things like:
- An 8-hour workday
- Paid overtime
- A weekend
Or think about the fact that your seven year old is not expected (or allowed) to get a job, that we do have a minimum wage (although it desperately needs to be raised), or that if you get injured on the job, you’re owed compensation, remember: that’s all thanks to labor unions.
And did you know that WOMEN formed the first labor union in the US? Women textile workers in Lowell, MA formed the first union 50 years before Samuel Gompers founded the AFL.
The union movement has been on the decline since its peak in the mid-1960s, with Republican-promoted “right to work” laws encroaching on more and more states and increasing numbers of gig workers who have NO formal protections. But unions still remain powerful guardians of workers’ rights and interests, protecting us from being at the mercy of management, whose only real goal is to make the widget a little cheaper and sell it for a little more, squeezing as much profit as possible out of every step along the way, including the workers.
Unions protect workers’ wages and ensure high quality benefits packages via contracts, help promote equal pay for equal work, allow workers to exercise the power of collective bargaining, ensure that people aren’t fired for no good reason, promote workplace safety standards, encourage civic engagement, and provide a bulwark against the whims of the owners.
As the Economic Policy Institute’s excellent research paper on this subject points out: “Unions are essential to a fair economy and a vibrant democracy.”
So enjoy your cookout and beer and relaxing with your posse on the last weekend of summer – I know I will – but don’t forget to take a few minutes to think about what we’re actually celebrating this weekend.
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