What is Labor Day?

ROBERT NAUGHTON Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters Tri State Regional Manager

An anti-worker agenda was implemented under the leadership of Americans for Prosperity, whose lobbyist was the only audience member at the signing of the law undoing public-sector bargaining.

There's a more serious meaning behind Labor Day as it was first celebrated in 1882 amid a period of great unrest and protests from workers' unions over conditions facing employees.

But the need to recognize our labor force has not diminished, even as the average American worker has changed. In many states holidays celebrating the contributions workers were making to the nation's economic and social progress were adopted.

As you watch your children board the school bus the 2017-18 academic year, consider this: that school bus driver is likely forced to pay fees to a union as a condition of driving that bus.

On this Labor Day, we should commemorate another champion of the working class, one who could also teach us much about labor rights, as some of those rights seem again to be under assault. As such, it affords a three-day weekend to pursue summertime passions one last time before the weather cools.

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So as you enjoy your Labor Day, take a moment to pay tribute to the American worker, in all its incarnations, who has labored to create the America we know and love. This is especially egregious on holidays like Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What's the history behind Labor Day? The many benefits and protections workers enjoy today never existed until unions won them for working people. According to a national Gallup poll, almost 80 percent of Americans agree: no worker should be forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment. During the last two decades of the 1800s, workers carried out some 37,000 strikes in the United States; and between 1870 and 1914, up to 800 American workers were killed during strikes, nearly entirely by state security forces or the military, the Washington Post reported, citing historian Edward T. O'Connell.

This momentous event had a significant impact on the labor movement, as did the Pullman Palace Car Company strike, which also occurred in Chicago in May 1894.

The strike came to a bloody head when the federal government sent in the military to enforce a court injunction against the strike; the riots resulted in 30 deaths and $80 million worth of damages.

For Americans lucky enough to have the day off, Labor Day is wonderful. Many use the last days of summer as an opportunity to have a BBQ with friends, while others use it for a last-minute getaway: the holiday is associated with heavy congestion on roads and at airports.

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