Labor Day has its roots snared in the concrete of thousands of cities and in the hearts of countless communities. The holiday was established to champion the rights of the American worker, and to highlight the importance of improving the American work culture-wages, workers rights, labor laws, and working conditions. One cannot talk about the labor movement without talking about the employees who continue to carry on its legacy.
A day for the worker established by the worker, the first Labor Day Parade was held in New York City almost 130 years ago in 1882. This is nothing short of fitting, since New York has remained one of the most unionized states throughout history. In 1887, New York had officially recognized Labor Day as a holiday and 12 years after the first Parade, in 1894, President Grover Cleveland made it a national holiday. This was in response to the chaotic Pullman Strike, deemed as a catalyst in the labor movement. “It had started when the Pullman Palace Car Company lowered wages without lowering rents in the company town, also called Pullman.”, according to The New York Times. This elevated to a larger movement after railway unions decided to no longer work on Pullman cars, causing chaos throughout the transportation industry.
Fast forward 124 years, the labor movement is still thriving. This is due in large part to the voices unions give their employees through collective bargaining-which still, from time to time, culminates into strikes. The good that unions do for employees and the importance of the labor movement has not been lost in current events-even Janus v. AFSCME, a U.S. Supreme Court case overturning mandated union fees, has not slowed unions. When the verdict came down in spring of 2018, it made mandating union fees unconstitutional under the 1st amendment. It’s main plaintiff, Mark Janus, argued that due to the way that unions work-they are political in nature, as well as that he didn’t want union lobbying for political ideas he didn’t support.
These are the same dues that help with representation for grievance proceedings, collective bargaining, and other main functions of unions. While right-to-work proponents thought they would hit unions where it hurt, many unions actually saw a huge uptick in full-dues paying members-particularly unions for teachers.
Below are links to a number of articles summarizing the rich history of Labor Day. To all employees and laborers everywhere, thank you for your hard work!