Labor Day was once the most visible political holiday in the United States – created by the union movement to celebrate workers’ right to collective bargaining and to organize strikes to press their demands.
The Washington Post was an early supporter of the movement. As early as 1836, editor William Cullen Bryant wrote: “Criticize the right to subscribe to the sale of work from the privileges of a free man, and you may also at once associate it with the master.”
New York hosted the country’s first Labor Day parade when 10,000 workers marched from City Hall to Union Square. As the movement grew, so did the parades and celebrations.
But times have changed. Today, Labor Day is very much The right time for salesCooking at the end of summer and preparations for back to school. why? Because the movement has become as irrelevant to most Americans as the medieval guilds that preceded it – and so often The protector of privileges and not a force for the oppressed.
In 1954, more than one in three American workers was a union member. Now it is barely more than 6% of those employed in the private sector – but, in a huge turn, more than a third of those employed in the public sector. In fact, half of America’s 14 million union members today work for the government rather than the private sector, and that includes a lot of “semi-public” jobs in sectors like health care.
Yet even if it was a pro-union president like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who did more than anyone else to expand organized labor, he was sure that unions had no place in government service. As he wrote in 1937: “All those working in government must realize that the process of collective bargaining, as it is usually understood, cannot be transferred to the public service.”
He wrote that strikes by public servants are “unthinkable and intolerable”.
The way Franklin Roosevelt’s warning went aside may be the main reason why public support for unions is waning — and why the massive Labor Day rallies are a distant memory.
But there is still a general day of thanks and greetings to all working men and women – in the words of one of the holiday’s founders, Peter McGuire, co-founder of the AFL – “Out of rude nature, they etched all the greatness we have. Ha.
Freeman Edwin Miller (1864-1951)
God bless the strong arms of toil,
Noble hearts and royal hands,
Who plows the plain and cultivates the soil,
And the grains of the laughing lands grow!
The king in the valleys of blessed life
Where the perfect pleasures first began,
May blessings come with the rapture
To crown the humble worker!
His kingdoms are waving corn with banners
And the meadows are shining with fairy blossoms,
While the duties of his heart are born
Where the shadows of Sylvan hide the gloom;
Sweet nature fills his heart with health,
While rural spoils lead his soul
Where the brook and the fountain sing stealthily
And a soft breeze with the swirl of music.
He lives where simple wishes gather,
And convince his chest
While tender lullabies of singing
bring the joy of the angel to his rest;
Do not praise his name
Where it works silently apart,
Honor is never related to fame
the glories of his humble heart.
Doesn’t need a kiss from the royal crown
To use an ax or direct the plow,
Or Attract Heaven’s Smiles
to cling to the bunches on his forehead;
But in the radiance of sacred love,
With humble deeds he lives his days,
And drinking from the springs above,
He spreads joy in his ways.
The proud monarch of the torn jacket,
Your hardship is fraught with greater gains
From that which bleeds where the emblem of the warrior
Thousands are killed in the Plains battles!
Your duty pushes you to build and grow,
The forest fell, the outline of the city
And scatter the seeds of love below,
Where are you worker!