A Capital & Main photo essay honors the American workers whose critical work keeps our nation moving forward.
Eyal Press asks us to look at the labor no one wants to celebrate.
Even as retail and hospitality workers see pay hikes, the wealthiest Americans got even bigger raises during the pandemic — widening income inequality even further.
An Ethiopian-born labor leader takes stock of his movement, Trump, the immigration crisis and police reform.
Three migrant workers recall the adversity they faced when they arrived to resurrect New Orleans. Many workers who came in Hurricane Katrina’s wake still face those conditions today.
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
For many, the legacy of Labor Day has been forgotten. We forget about the struggle that so many fought and even died for to achieve decent working conditions. We take for granted that children no longer have to slave away in American factories for 17 hours a day, six days a week. We undervalue what it took to get the weekend. After all, that’s what makes Labor Day such a treat in the first place–we get a three-day weekend instead of the boring old two. And for those of us still lucky enough, the 40-hour work week is just the standard.
Longtime president and founder of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers said:
“Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country. All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man’s prowess over man,
35th Annual Labor Day Parade: Join the L.A. labor movement as we celebrate Labor Day weekend!
Monday, September 1
Parade begins 10 a.m., Broad Ave. and E Street
Rally and picnic start noon, Banning Park
For more information, contact the Labor Day Committee at (562) 595-1891
Labor Day Concert with Sheila E, Eric Benet and Irvin Mayfield Quintet
Monday, September 1
Doors open 4 p.m., concert starts 5 p.m.
Conga Room at L.A. Live
Check out this handy collection of American Prospect stories on the state of labor and the labor movement in the U.S. The anthology, The Good Fight, can be browsed online or downloaded for offline reading.
It features pieces by Robert Kuttner, Tracy McMillan, Josh Eidelson and Harold Meyerson — including Meyerson’s recent profile of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, “L.A. Story.”
Perfect reading for this Labor Day weekend!
When I started Unionosity, my goal was to provoke discussion about important workplace and economic issues. Work is such a significant part of our lives – many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at it. Yet we don’t talk enough about what it means and how we can do it better — specifically, what can be accomplished if we work together.
Unfortunately, the “working together” part can sometimes go awry before it has the chance to begin. I’ve learned to be mindful of some of the predicaments that the working poor have long lived with. One of these I learned the hard way during an affordable housing campaign I took part in nearly 20 years ago in South Central Los Angeles. The program we were organizing around — ironically, a Jack Kemp HUD program — would transfer ownership of publicly subsidized housing to tenant groups made up of Section 8 voucher recipients,
(As we begin Labor Day, 2012, organized labor in America is enduring a Valley Forge period with few signs of improvement on the horizon. Lest we forget, though, why Americans enjoy the employment perks they do – including this very holiday – we repost Stephen D. Foster Jr.’s inventory, via Addicting Info, of reasons to be grateful to unions, and why their existence is essential to our democracy.)
Labor unions are responsible for the many benefits of our jobs that we enjoy today. Even if you only work part time in the worst job possible, you still enjoy at least some of the fruits that labor has fought for. Here are 20 of them.
1. Minimum Wage: Without federally mandated minimum wage, we’d still be working for pennies.
2. Child Labor Laws: Without these laws, children would be hired as cheap labor.
Like any holiday, Labor Day comes with some inevitable scenarios. Number One is that most Americans will take a well-deserved day off, courtesy of the efforts of the labor movement. Next, many of us will barbecue on grills that were paid for by middle class jobs that only exist because of the success of that movement.
But this holiday comes with another inevitability: The Sunday morning newspaper or Web stories proclaiming that people don’t want to join unions anymore. However, despite what the editorial writers and columnists say, the real reason people don’t join unions is that U.S. labor laws are so weak that they are nearly worthless – and the right to join a union is a joke.
When I went to work for my first employer after high school I was part of an organizing drive and a strong majority of the workers – 43 out of 62 – signed cards asking for a union to represent us.