St. Paul, who wrote the earliest documents we have from the Christian era, declared: “Each will receive wages according to the labor of each.” You work, you get paid.
Most Americans today know that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, but few know why he was there. King went to Memphis to support African American garbage workers, who were on strike to protest unsafe conditions, abusive white supervisors, and low wages — and to gain recognition for their union.
With good union training, wages and benefits, Cathy Nichols, a single mother, was able to provide for herself and her son without fear of impoverishment or medical calamity.
In 1936, during the throes of the Great Depression, FDR addressed a deeply divided and economically insecure nation on the eve of Labor Day:
“There are those who fail to read both the signs of the times and American history. They would try to refuse the worker any effective power to bargain collectively, to earn a decent livelihood and to acquire security. It is those short-sighted ones, not labor, who threaten this country with that class dissension which in other countries has led to dictatorship and the establishment of fear and hatred as the dominant emotions in human life.”
The parallels to what’s happening today are remarkable.
While the circumstances differ from now, the insecurity so many felt in 1936 is as strong as it was then. It exists across sectors. It exists regardless of geography. It exists because the wealthy few have reaped the rewards of our labor without sharing the prosperity.
Though we tend to associate it with barbecues and retail sales, Labor Day is a holiday honoring the American labor movement. And an easy way to celebrate the movement that brought us the minimum wage, an 8-hour workday and an end to child labor is by buying Sam Adams, Doritos, and other union-made nosh for Monday’s get-togethers.
All the products listed below are made by unionized workers . You can find a more comprehensive list over at the website Labor 411.
Meat & Buns
Ball Park franks
Hebrew National franks
Oscar Meyer & Boar’s Head hot dogs
Sara Lee buns