On Monday, our nation observed Labor Day, which is an occasion to honor all of America’s working people. The concept for the day began with the trade union movement in the late 1800’s. The federal government adopted Labor Day as a national holiday in 1894.
Labor Day is a good time to reflect on the rights of workers. In many countries, workers are not allowed to organize trade unions or to bargain with their employers. In some dictatorships, no independent labor unions are permitted; only labor front organizations operated by the ruling party are allowed to exist.
In the United States and other advanced democratic countries, working people have the right to establish independent labor organizations that are not controlled by the government. That is why there is a strong connection between free labor movements and democracy. Unions help improve democracy by giving workers a voice in the workplace. There are dozens of labor unions in the United States. Most American unions belong to one of two major labor federations: 1) the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations), or 2) CTW (Change to Win). The AFL-CIO was founded in 1955 when the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations merged into a combined labor movement. CTW was founded in 2005 as an alternative to the AFL-CIO.
American labor unions have been responsible for a variety of reforms such as the eight-hour workday, overtime pay, paid vacations, worker health benefits, employee pension plans, workplace safety regulations, and grievance procedures. By gaining strength in the 20th century, American labor unions raised the living standards for millions of people. They helped raise workers from poverty into the middle class. Rising wages enabled American workers to buy homes and cars, to take their families on vacation, and to send their children to college. When unions were strong in the 20th century, they helped raise wages and living standards across the country for union and non-union labor alike. We need to raise the American standard of living again in the 21st century.
In Bayonne, union members work in a variety of trades and economic sectors, such as building & construction, petrochemicals, maritime, education, healthcare, transportation, retail, and government.
We should respect the contributions that all American workers make to our families, our communities, and our national economy. Let’s all work together to improve wages, working conditions, and economic opportunities in the years to come.