Labor Liaison Corner – September 2016

As we bid goodbye to summer and vacation, we in labor should reflect on the real history of American labor and the state of labor today. Let’s start by looking at the history of Labor Day, which was created by the labor movements in the late 19th century, during American labor most dismal period. In the late 1800’s at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, when the average American worked 12 Hour days and 7-day weeks, in order to have a basic living.

Very poor And recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working Conditions, with insufficient sanitary facilities and breaks. Labor unions grew more prominent and vocal. Strikes and rallies Were organized to protest these conditions. Many events turned violent Including the infamous Haymarket Riot in which several Chicago police- Men and workers were killed.

On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers Took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history. The idea of a workingmen’s holiday on first Monday in September caught on across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it. Congress legalize it 12 years later, when Pullman Palace Car Company went on strike to protest wage cuts and firing if union Representatives.

On June 26 the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs called for a boycott of all Pullman railways cars, To break the strike the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, causing wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. If we fast-forward today American unions need resurgence only 11.1% of workers are unionized with less than 7% in the private sector.

While unions are flat footed today, the labor movement has improved people’s lives on a scale much larger than any other social movement In United States history So we in unions must learn from our history and work to organize workers to achieve there power and thereby make America great.

Labor Day history, www.history.com/topics/holidays/labor-day
Jacobin magazine – issue 22/ summer 2016