In 1882 the Central Labor Union of New York, Brooklyn, and New Jersey (which would later break up into several locals that are now members of AFL-CIO) held the first Labor day. It became a federal holiday by an act of congress in 1894.
Early labor day celebrations were marked by huge marches culminating in large festivals where working people came together to show the power elite their organizing strength in numbers. Alas, these days it has declined into just another excuse for a BBQ. We have lost our progressive zeal in the US. We are paying the price in lower wages and benefits and by working longer hours for less pay.
Back in 1948, brilliant sociologist C. Wright mills wrote the masterpiece of 20th century books about the labor movement:
From the Publisher :
“The New Men of Power is a brilliant, original, and provocative work, genuinely democratic and boldly radical in its character…I have not read for a long time any book which in its main bearings casts more valuable light on the tensions of American society or which is more stimulating and fruitful in its challenges to the reader.”
–Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
“C. Wright Mills has written a book in total opposition to such current inclinations as quietism, ideal-community building, advocacy of ‘preventive’ atomic war, a truce with the right becasue of fear of Stalinism….We owe him a considerable debt of gratitude for having tried, in a time of depressed silence, to reopen a discussion of politics.”
–Irving Howe, Partisan Review
The above is from the official Mills website you can visit here. I suggest you get a copy and read this book. It tells not only what was going wrong with the labor movement back in the middle of the 20th century, but also what is wrong with the labor movement here at the beginning of the 21th.
The main problem is the decline in membership. The number of workers represented has been in decline since the 1960’s. The worst law ever written, the Taft-Hartley Act, is much to blame for this. This disgraceful law should be REPEALED! But some blame needs also be placed at the feet of the union leadership. They became too damn friendly with the bosses and this has lead to the decline of our strength.
However, most of the blame belongs to YOU! You have been neo-conned into believing that unions are bad. As bad as the negative effect on unions of the paradigm shift away from industrial employment was in the 1970’s, that evil weasel ronnie raygun really hammered the unions by firing the PATCO workers. The bush crime family has done the movement great harm too. If you think the dems are any better, just remember that the last clinton co-presidency gave us the disaster that is NAFTA! That was the beginning of what we now know as the disaster called “globalization.”
You need to step away from that BBQ today and remember what labor day was meant to mean. IT WAS A DAY TO SHOW THE corporateers HOW MUCH POWER WORKING PEOPLE HAVE WHEN WE STAND TOGETHER IN UNIONS! After the charcoal grill cools and you bundle up the empty beer cans, if YOU have a chance to sign a union card at your place of employment, I suggest you sign! If YOU are a member of a union already, I suggest YOU be a very active member. The union can only work for US if WE work for the union!
The telepathic crickets on the ClapSotronics editorial board have been chirping “The Internationale” all day…
The scientifically impossible I do right away
The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer