History: The Labor Movement and Labor Day

The Labor Movement has fought tremendously to protect workers over the years. Among other achievements, labor has led the struggle to end child labor, establish the eight-hour work day and paid overtime, secure guaranteed minimum wage, fight for the weekend, secure unemployment insurance, and establish the legal right of workers to form unions and collectively bargain for benefits. But not many Americans are not fully aware of the history behind Labor Day itself.

Always the first Monday in September, Labor Day is a tribute to the social and economic achievements of workers nationwide. The first Labor Day celebration was held on September 5, 1882, in New York City, and was spearheaded by the Central Labor Union. In 1884, the CLU chose the first Monday in September as their official labor commemoration date; they encouraged other NYC unions to emulate them and create a “workingman’s holiday” on the same day. In 1885, the idea spread across the country and was celebrated nationwide. After the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of US military during the 1894 Pullman Strike sparked public animosity, Congress quickly designated the first Monday of every September a federal labor holiday.

Still, despite hard-won victories, workers today all over the United States are suffering –not only due to the collapsed economy, but also because of state and federal laws designed to curtail workers’ rights to freely choose a union. The Employee Free Choice Act, supported by a bipartisan coalition in Congress, would allow workers to decide for themselves whether to join a union via majority sign-up. According to the AFL-CIO, research suggests that nearly sixty million Americans would join a union if given the chance. Union members are 52% more likely to have job-provided health care, and three times more likely to have guaranteed pensions.  It’s time to level the playing field.  Since 1882, workers have been celebrated but still the most important piece of legislation to labor has not been passed.  It is collective bargaining that helped build the middle class. We need to empower workers by engaging in collective bargaining so that they can have a voice and finally improve the economy. 

Here is hoping that, this labor day, we will think less about bargains at the mall and remember the more than 11 million American who want to work but can’t find a job.

Labor Day Celebration September 4th

To honor the hard work and struggles of working men and women, we, the Orange County Labor Federation, are holding our 2nd Annual Labor Day Celebration.  Last year’s event was a success, with over 300 in attendance. The celebration was filled with fun, music, food, face painting, games for kids, and free admission to the Santa Ana Zoo.  This year’s celebration is expected to be bigger than ever with over.  Special guests will include California Gubernatorial Candidate Jerry Brown, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, and various other elected officials and community leaders. Join us on September 4, 2010 at the Santa Ana Zoo (1801 E. Chestnut Ave., Santa Ana, CA, 92701). Admission is free; festivities start at 11 AM. Come join in the fun and show solidarity with OC workers!