By: President Dave Cook
As we approach Labor Day 2013, “the workingman’s holiday” first celebrated in 1882 to recognize the history of America’s vital force of labor, we can’t help but wish this Labor Day could mark accomplishments of this new era we live in.
Maybe Labor Day now serves as an opportunity to celebrate and pledge to become more like those ardent union members of past days, and remember that anything worth keeping is worth fighting for.
Once upon a time in America, “union” was not a dirty word.
At the turn of the 20th Century, organized labor became a force to be reckoned with and its leaders heroes and household names. Organized labor created the highest standard of living and greatest job production the world had ever known.
Those strong men and women of the early days of organized labor fought hard and won, improving the standard of living for all Americans.
They brought us the 8-hour workday, improved working conditions, insurance benefits and pension plans and gave American workers pride in knowing that labor’s workforce is the power that runs the economic machine. With- out rejuvenating that power, we will never see the promise of a better future.
If we didn’t see it ourselves, we might think reports of the 99 percent holding the money were old news reports. The U.S. Economic Policy Institute reports in a recent study: one percent of this nation holds 35 percent of its wealth
The top 10 percent receive 45 percent of the income.
About 90 percent split up the other 55 percent.
How did we get here? Maybe we felt too comfortable? Maybe we aren’t relentless enough to stop the selfish and individualistic mindsets found in the unregulated capitalism of today?
Allowing unregulated free market capital- ism means rolling back worker safety regulations, outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, cutting back hours so no one qualifies for insurance, bringing in immigrant guest workers without labor protections, eliminating entitlements and mounting a coordinated effort to break labor unions.
It is no coincidence that over the past year the United States has seen an orchestrated effort to cripple the National Labor Relations Board and watched the hold up of appointments to the Labor Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Protection Agency.
Labor unions are the instruments that protect workers and resist attempts by corporations to treat workers as commodities. Let this Labor Day be a call to vigilance. Don’t be lulled by the poisoned spring of an anti-worker philosophy or the misery of millions will only grow, and the hard-fought workers’ rights earned over this past century will be lost.
Celebrate Labor Day with your fellow union men and women and know that we can’t forget the fight.
More than ever, working people need the collective voice and bargaining power unions provide to keep employers from making the workplace look as it did in the early 19th Century
Without vigilance, without a fight, the threat of sweatshop conditions, unlivable wages and 70-hour work weeks may become a part of working America’s future as well as its past.