Labor Day 2018

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!

The History of Labor Day

What to know about the history of celebrating Labor Day

History of Labor Day: Why it’s celebrated, how it started

Industries with growing union membership

Labor unions have a long history in public works and trades. Typically unions are made up of police officers, fire fighters, sanitation, electricians, construction workers, the health industry, and the like. However, recently there are a variety of industries with employees voting to unionize. Their reasons for voting to unionize are all unique to the industry, but nonetheless highlight the fact that employees want to change their work environment.

Airline crews:

Earlier this month, over half of JetBlue’s 5,000 flight attendants voted to unionize. They are now part of a union that is near and dear to New York’s heart, the Transport Workers Union. This is the second union to be brought in to JetBlue since its first union in 2014, the Air Line Pilots Association.

An article on Bloomberg.com sited job security from mergers as one of the reasons the flight attendants had voted to unionize, as well as having a voice in lobbying matters in the aviation industry. TWU President John Samuelsen said of the vote, “This historic victory is yet another example of the tide turning in America as workers continue to lock arms and fight back to defend their livelihoods,” according to Forbes.

JetBlue is following suit with one of countries most heavily unionized industries, with some airlines having more than 4 unions supporting their employees.

Education:

Student workers, usually holding the title of Adjunct Professor or Research Assistant, have a long history of trying to unionize in private institutions. After taking on the lion’s share of research work and instruction, they are typically left with low wages, heavy overtime and a lack of job security.

Harvard students recently voted to unionize and won the right to bargain with the school. According to the prestigious college’s website, this is the first time in the history of Harvard that the students will have a union. Harvard’s decision to negotiate with graduate student workers is out of step with other ivy league colleges, such as Yale and Columbia, who have refused to do so when their students vote to unionize. The union, HGU, is represented by the United Automobile Workers and is now the HGU-UAW.

Journalists/Freelance Writers:

Several online media publications have voted become members of the Writers Guild of America East. Employees from Thrillist, Vox, Vice, and MTV News make up just a number of the roughly 5,000 union members that WGAE represents. Unique to an industry based in the arts, unionizing also means the protection of the work they generate for the publications-for example, the recent settling of a 17-year-old- class action lawsuit claiming copyright infringement brought forth by 3,000 journalists. Similar to the airline industry, mergers and acquisitions that could put freelance positions at risk are also a reason employees are voted to unionize. Most recently, 85% of employees from the Chicago Tribune have voted to unionize. This is still pending approval from parent company, Tronc according to an article on Politico posted in late April.

For-Hire Transportation:

Not unlike their yellow, green, and livery forefathers, for-hire transportation services have begun to unionize. With the ease of a mobile app, Uber and Lyft created quick income for the drivers and quick transportation for the users. After feeling abused under the employment status of independent contractors, the Independent Drivers Guild was formed for (and by) app-based and for-hire drivers. These were the same drivers initially protected by the IAMAW District 15.