Just Another Holiday? Why Labor Day Matters (or Should)

American flag and tools. Happy Labor Day

Labor Day is a holiday that doesn’t seem to have much point any more beyond BBQ and a long weekend, but there is a reason for the holiday. Begun in 1894, Labor Day was intended to celebrate the labor union movement, which started in the 19th century and reached its height in the US at mid-20th century.

International Worker’s Day is celebrated worldwide on May 1st, but the date coincided too closely to the May 4, 1886 date of the infamous Haymarket affair in Chicago. Anarchists threw a bomb into the crowd as the police attempted to disperse a peaceful rally in support of labor rights. Seven policemen and at least four civilians were killed in the blast and subsequent gunfire, and dozens of other people were wounded. The Communist embrace of May 1st further discredited it in the minds of the American people. So we have Labor Day in September.

Take the Day Off

I grew up in a union household. Before her marriage, my mom worked in a factory and joined the union. When she turned 65, she started getting laughably small pension checks from the union. My dad was a lifetime member of the Brotherhood of Teamsters, and his union pension was a godsend in their later years. My nephew has worked construction since finishing high school and the only pension he will get will be from his union.

Management Style

Sadly, union membership in the private sector has dropped to 6.2% by Jan. 2020 (down from 7% in 2018), and surprise, surprise! wages are stagnant. Cause and effect, people. Large corporations have worked very hard to destroy labor unions, in part by supporting Right to Work (for Less) laws in states all over the country. I’d love to see a resurgence in union membership in this country. There’s a reason why workers in the old days wanted to organize, and some things never change. Only public sector unions remain healthy.

I’ll get off my soapbox now and leave you with a laugh.

Graveyard Workers Strike

Back to the barbie. Happy Labor Day!


4 thoughts on “Just Another Holiday? Why Labor Day Matters (or Should)

  1. My grandmother was the union steward for her colleagues for a long time. She worked in the meat packing industry where unions were strong and strikes were violent. For better or worse, I’m on the opposite side since I worked in a Right to Work state for many years. However, I was in a profession (teaching) where I was still forced to belong to the national NEA. I don’t agree with many of the stances they take yet I had to pay dues to support those causes. I know unions do a lot of good, but so do companies. They need each other, right?

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