Local politics, the county, and the world, as viewed by Tammy Maygra
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Labor Day 2019
On September 2, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor celebrates and honors the greatest worker in the world – the American worker. Labor Day 2019 is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day being celebrated as a national holiday. Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During 1887, four more states – Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York – created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
Matthew Maguire the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. The Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday. President Grover Cleveland signed a law June 28, 1894 making the first Monday in September of each year a national holiday. The first parade of the new project was held in Manhattan on Sept. 5, 1882. It started out small, but then a band showed up, and workers' groups from various industries began to flow in. Eventually the parade swelled to 10,000. A
A street parade to exhibit to the public the strength and esprit de corps (a feeling of pride, fellowship, and common loyalty shared by the members of a particular group) of the trade and labor organizations of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. In Oregon a picnic and get together with various trade unions and public employee unions is traditionally held at Oaks Park to celebrate Labor Day.
The vivacious force of labor added significantly to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership – the American worker.
Those against Labor Day and against the workers, has a history of cruel and bloody conflicts. Most people probably don't think of Labor Day as a holiday commemorating struggle and death. But that's what it used to be.
The period between the Civil War and the Great Depression was a time of massive upheaval: The industrial revolution swept in, and millions of Americans were forced to leave their farms and move to cities in search of work in the newly-formed rail, steel, textile, and shipping industries. There were massive recessions during these periods creating unemployment and mass poverty.
Employers could treat their employees as unfairly as they wished and how the wealth they all collectively produced would be distributed, usually it barely trickled down to the workers. The minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, laws against child labor, and more fair practices were only instituted after pitched political combat. Unions were growing as the one avenue by which workers could fight for their interests, and the economy saw waves of regular strikes and work stoppages. We see very little of these actions today because of the hard fought actions of workers before us.
Employers and politicians were not shy about busting unions with police forces and hired enforcers. Riots, deaths, and bombings were not uncommon.
A massive recession hit in 1893.
The job losses were devastating and the frustration formed in a nationwide strike against the Pullman Company, a railroad car manufacturer and founder of one of the most infamous company towns in America. Railroad baron George Pullman created his eponymous town in 1880 just outside Chicago. It was a model of capitalist feudalism, with workers offered housing in line with their position in the company. Residents worked for Pullman's company and their rent was automatically docked from their paychecks. They even banked at Pullman's bank. A regular company town where workers owed their souls to the company store. But Pullman's business plummeted when the recession hit. Hundreds were laid off and wages were deeply cut — yet rents in the town did not decline so the 4,000 of Pullman's workers went on strike on May 11, 1894.
One hundred and fifty thousand railway workers in 27 states joined the strike, refusing to operate Pullman rail cars. The massive halt to the rail industry and the interruption of U.S. mail cars set off a national crisis. Congress and President Grover Cleveland, looking to save face, rushed through a bill declaring Labor Day a national holiday. Cleveland signed it on June 28, 1894. He was backed by the AFL — the more conservative portion of the labor movement — which threw the first official Labor Day parade that year.
But it was a brutally ironic gesture.
ix days later, under pressure from the furious leaders of the rail industry, and facing the virtual shutdown of U.S. mail trains, Cleveland invoked the Sherman Antitrust Act to declare the stoppage a federal crime. He sent in 12,000 federal troops to break the strike. Days of fighting and riots ensued, as strikers overturned and burned railcars, and the troops responded with violent crackdowns. Anywhere from a dozen to over 30 workers were killed before the strikers were dispersed and the trains restarted. On May 1, 1886, over 250,000 workers struck in Chicago, shutting down 13,000 businesses to demand a shorter work week for equal pay. After several days of peaceful protest, an unknown assailant threw a bomb at police in Haymarket Square on May 4. The police responded by firing into the crowd, killing scores of people.
Labor Day is a remembrance of a time when the labor movement was a force to be reckoned with.
Since the heyday of the New Deal, American membership in labor unions has collapsed. Millions of workers in modern service industries face capricious employment, low pay, and dismal conditions. Inequality has returned to its pre-Great-Depression levels, and the shared prosperity of the era immediately after the New Deal is a distant memory. Even the 40-hour work week is falling by the wayside. All of which makes Labor Day ripe for reclaiming, in the name of some long-unfinished business.
Workers in the later generations have prospered from the hard work and sacrifices from previous workers. Modern workers have become soft and dependent on their weekly checks, and have let management dictate their working conditions, and wages. Therefore the decline of the advances of previous workers is slowly been eroded away. I contribute some of this to the credit card- the average American has allowed corporate America to control them by the easy access of money to buy needless articles, therefore creating a debt to the credit card company which people must work everyday under all conditions in order to pay the “company store”. While this is happening the “company store” is breaking down working conditions.
Sadly the younger generations do not see or understand this. As union membership declines, income inequality rises. Union workers make on average 13.5% more than non-union workers. Unfortunately- the reduction of unions has let the rich pick the pockets of the American workers and the division has become greater and greater every decade.
Fundamental reform is required to rebuild worker power and guarantee all workers the right to come together and have a voice in their workplace. Efforts are underway, including legislation like the Protecting the Right to Organize Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, and innovative projects focused on the reconstruction of labor law.8 Until meaningful policy changes are made that take worker power seriously and restore a fair balance of power between workers and employers, our economy will continue to leave behind most of the workers in it.
though the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) makes it illegal for employers to intimidate, coerce, or fire workers in retaliation for participating in union-organizing campaigns, the penalties are insufficient to provide a serious economic disincentive for such behavior (there are no punitive damages or criminal charges under the NLRA; penalties may consist of being required to post a notice or reinstate illegally fired workers). This means that many illegal tactics can be actively pursued; for example, employers often threaten to close the worksite, cut union activists’ hours or pay, or report workers to immigration enforcement authorities if employees unionize. More than one in seven union organizers and activists are illegally fired while trying to organize unions at their place of work.5
In the face of these attacks on collective bargaining, policymakers have egregiously failed to update labor laws to rebalance the system. In fact, in many cases policy is moving backward; 27 states have passed so-called right-to-work laws, which are intended to undermine union finances by making it illegal for unions to require nonunion members of a collective bargaining unit (who don’t pay union dues) to pay “fair share fees”—fees that cover only the basic costs of representing employees in the workplace. And the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME—a case financed by a small group of foundations with ties to the largest and most powerful corporate lobbies—made “right-to-work” the law of the land for all public-sector unions.
The greed of Corporate America will never stop until they have reduced the American worker back to slave labor and the big Fat Cats will have complete control of the American workers. Unions must continue to work against the greed of these top 10%. The younger people of this country must and I repeat -must stand strong- and join a union and fight to reclaim the American Dream.
To the people who fought against corporate greed and formed UNIONS
To all modern day UNION members who are still fighting the fight.
Never Forget -UNION Workers built America
A strong America depends on Union Workers