Commentary By Don Browne
LABELLE, FLORIDA (September 4, 2006) -- Labor Day is the day set aside to honor workers, and the only holiday that has nothing to do with wars, religion, race, or national origin. Despite much declining membership in organized labor unions over the last twenty years, unions are important for all working people union and non-union members alike.
Paid holidays such as Labor Day, paid vacations, the eight-hour workday and 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, employer-financed pensions, medical care and other fringe benefits, health and safety standards, the right to bargain collectively with employers, the right to have a voice in wages paid for work, and working conditions at the workplace -- working people owe all that, and more, to the labor movement.
But in today's working climate, do you have a voice in your working conditions, working hours and wages at your job? Or is it dictated by management and you must take it or leave it? Are you on a paid holiday today on Labor Day or are you working for straight wages?
"Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country," said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day...is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."
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.
But the workplace has changed. When if ever again will workers regain the right to a just living wage, family friendly work hours, and fair working conditions and benefits from employers?