Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Happy Labor Day, USA

It’s Labor Day in the USA today, a holiday many Americans don’t really understand. As Roger Green points out, the day was “NOT invented by Hallmark”. Still, people take it for granted as if it was.

Roger also talked about the history of the federal holiday coming into force in 1894, but one aspect that I always found fascinating is that the date of the USA’s Labour Day was set in September in part to make sure that May 1 didn’t become Labor Day, something that the conservative ruling elites of the day greatly feared after the Haymarket Riots in Chicago in 1886. Conservative Democratic President Grover Cleveland, who signed the Labor Day bill into law, was no friend of labour, and in 1894, he sent the US Army to Illinois to break-up the Pullman Strike over the express objection of the state’s progressive Democratic Governor, John Peter Altgeld (who himself had used the state’s militia during the strike to preserve order).

It would be decades before the US government’s fight against organised labor would start to diminish, only to be resurrected by today’s conservative ruling elites who are, again, trying to destroy unions and workers’ rights. Unions are responsible for the minimum wage, outlawing child labour, the 8-hour day, workplace safety regulations and a whole host of things no sane worker would want to see taken away because all workers benefit from them—which is part of the reason why the conservative ruling elites want to take them away.

The video above is by a UK supporter of unions and workers’ rights, and is several years old. I’ve seen similar backwards/forwards structure in other videos, and it usually works quite well to compare/contrast. What I like about the text in this one is that it explains simply how a unionised workplace can have enormous positive benefits for businesses, despite the claims of empty rightwing propaganda.

Unions have done so much for workers—unionised and not—and we mustn’t forget that. Labor Day ought to be a day when we remember just a little bit of how much better things are for workers now than they were in the 19th Century. You can thank organised labour for that.

New Zealand’s Labour Day, which commemorates the 8-hour workday, is the last Monday in October. This year, NZ Labour Day is Monday, October 28.


rogerogreen said...

In particular, teachers and other workers on the "public dole" have been beaten up by the Tea Party types, as though the work of government happened by itself. Ticks me off..

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

I agree—and the idea that it's a dole REALLY annoys me! Teachers work bloody hard for too-little pay, poor resources and support, and then still have to put up with idiots trashing them and the jobs they do. Most of the people who love trashing teachers couldn't last a single day in a classroom, let alone years or decades! And that's true for other public sector workers, too. Grrrrr!