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Remembering the creation and importance of Labor Day…

The contributions made by unions to the betterment of America’s workers is primarily the reason we celebrate Labor Day. The influence of organized labor cannot be ignored.

Most of the benefits workers now enjoy are directly attributable to unions:

  • The 40 hour work week
  • paid holidays and vacations
  • sick leave
  • grievance procedures
  • collective bargaining
  • generally superior wages.

Unfortunately, we have come to take those benefits for granted. Benefits came about because of unions and soon became the norm for union workers and many non-union workers as well. All American workers owe a debt of gratitude to Organized Labor for its achievements.

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. Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country. By 1909 all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have made it a statutory holiday.

On Labor Day, let’s look at the benefits brought to us by Organized Labor:

Benefits of Unions:

Reinforcement of  the middle class. States with higher rates of unionization have lower rates of poverty, crime, and failing schools.

Raise of wages for all workers. Studies show that a large union presence in an industry or region can raise wages even for non-union workers. Women in unions make 33% more non-union women, and are more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and pensions.

Reducing wage inequality. Unions raise wages the most for low- and middle-wage workers and workers without college degrees.

Creation of mine safety laws strengthening mine safety standards and protecting the rights of mine workers.

The legal participation of Organized Labor has gotten many bills through Congress. In the last 50 or so years these include:

    •    The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009
•    The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
•    The Voting Rights Act of 1965
•    The Civil Rights Act of 1964
•    The Equal Pay Act of 1963

So as we celebrate Labor Day, let’s look at it as not just a day off from work, but as recognition of the relationship of the worker to democracy.

A Quote for the Evening… the Unions are not quite dead yet (Hooray).

“Today’s union families ought to follow the example of those who came before us. Talk to your children about why some politicians want to use us as scapegoats. Tell them why attending a union meeting at night is important. Make sure they understand the importance of standing up for what’s right.

“Tell everyone from your children to your neighbors to your newspapers that privatization can be stopped and collective bargaining can be restored. Tell them why we must defeat politicians who want to hurt working families. Our union’s political strength — the Green Machine — has long overcome our adversaries and, working together, it will continue to be the force of change. We’ve proved our determination in the past, and we will do so time and again.”

AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee

OK… defeating politicians who want to hurt working families. That means defeating huge corporations and tax-eating billionaires. Are you ready? Can we do it?

Everybody say “Yeah!

Then They Came for the Trade Unionists (a quote for this evening)

Thursday 10 March 2011

On this day, it behooves us to remember the words of Martin Niemoller.

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

I am a trade unionist, and yesterday in Wisconsin, they came for me. They came for you. They came for every working person in America, and their intent could not be more clear. Governor Scott Walker, along with the Koch Brothers and the right-wing radicals of the Republican Party, moved in darkness and with shameless deceit to gut the ability of dedicated laborers to bargain on an equal footing for the right to earn a living wage and to have access to decent health care.

by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed (there is more)

I’d like to thank my wife, Ellen Smith, for pointing this piece out to me.

Even Conservative Pollsters are showing problems for Walker in Wisconsin…

Up in Wisconsin, Scott Walker is sticking to his guns of not compromising on dealing with the unions, he’s putting up obstacles to getting into the capitol building, he’s threatening layoffs of teachers and more.

Perhaps he ought to take a closer look at the situation he’s creating. Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), a conservative think tank, came out with a new poll and it seems that about two-thirds of Wisconsinites are turning away from him… and 80% think they’ll be voting in the next election. It should be noted that WPRI has also been very supportive of Walker publicly and has been against the protesters in their policy releases.

Some standout poll views:

Q10. Scott Walker
Strongly favorable ……………………………………….. 28
Somewhat favorable …………………………………….. 15
Somewhat unfavorable …………………………………. 12
Strongly unfavorable ……………………………………. 41
Don’t know / Refused …………………………………….. 4

Q11a. Public Employees [SPLIT A]
Strongly favorable ……………………………………….. 39
Somewhat favorable …………………………………….. 28
Somewhat unfavorable …………………………………. 15
Strongly unfavorable ……………………………………. 10
Don’t know / Refused …………………………………….. 7

Q11b. Public Employee Unions [SPLIT B]
Strongly favorable………………………………………… 35
Somewhat favorable……………………………………… 24
Somewhat unfavorable………………………………….. 13
Strongly unfavorable…………………………………….. 21
Don’t know / Refused……………………………………… 7

Q12a. Teachers [SPLIT A]
Strongly favorable………………………………………… 45
Somewhat favorable……………………………………… 25
Somewhat unfavorable………………………………….. 16
Strongly unfavorable………………………………………. 9
Don’t know / Refused……………………………………… 5

Q12b. Teachers’ Unions [SPLIT B]
Strongly favorable………………………………………… 37
Somewhat favorable……………………………………… 22
Somewhat unfavorable………………………………….. 12
Strongly unfavorable…………………………………….. 24
Don’t know / Refused……………………………………… 4

…and all this comes with a view of how Scott Walker’s Administration is being viewed:

Q9. Overall, do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the way Scott Walker is handling his job as Governor of Wisconsin?
Strongly approve………………………………………….. 29
Somewhat approve……………………………………….. 14
Somewhat disapprove ……………………………………. 8
Strongly disapprove ……………………………………… 45
Don’t know / Refused……………………………………… 4

This week coming up Walker says people will be getting actual pink slips… it has been hard to tell bluffs from actualities here, but the protests are getting stronger and we’re entering the third week of growing complaints against Walker and support for teachers and unions.

I’ll tell you what I find reassuring… when I was driving home from my day-long EEG test yesterday I was listening to “What do you know?” on public radio and the host was talking to a 15-year-old girl in an interview. When asking her what she wanted to be, she said “A teacher”… he asked “Even after all that has happened?”  And her response was “Oh, yes.”

Notice she didn’t want to be Governor.

And this from Trinlay Khadro: We should be THANKING Unions…

This was posted in The Political Carnival today from one of their readers:

Even if you’ve never been a member of a Union, YOU BENEFIT everyday from what Unions have done. Even if you’ve never had kids, called 911, needed the fire or police department: YOU BENEFIT from public workers.

got employer paid/sponsored benefits: like, health care/retirement plan? (even if you pay a share)
thank the Union
got a day or two off every week?
thank the Union
8 hr work day, and paid overtime?
Thank the Union
Workman’s Comp?
Thank the Union
A safe workplace?
Thank the Union
Got an employer who needs a REASON to fire you?
thank the Union
Unemployment benefits?
thank the Union.

This is not just about teachers, it’s about firemen, law enforcement, Ambulance drivers, EMTs… people who put themselves in danger to keep you safe, and protect society.
It’s about the public health nurses, National Guard, water treatment workers, electrical system workers, sewer workers, roads repair…

Do you want the electrical grid maintained by a minimum wage guy who *might* have finished high school ? Do you want a union certified roofer to fix your house, using the proper safety equipment (so he doesn’t sue you) and won’t make a mess of your roof, or are you OK paying the contractor’s Son-in-Law minimum wage to do the job?

Ever use the public health office to get your kid vaccinated? get health information? alerts about outbreaks in your area? That Public Health office, that nurse, the person that sends out the news release about out breaks of measles or influenza, or whooping cough in your town… that’s a public employee and someone protected by the union.

Drive on public roads, flush the toilet, have a driver’s license, use the city bus… all are public workers…

All these public workers, ALSO pay taxes, and usually make less than the would doing the same sort of job for a much higher wage.

IF their wages and benefits are an issue (in Wisconsin the “crisis” was CREATED by the new gov. giving perks to the cronies who got him elected… NOT the public employees)

IF the wages and benefits are an issue, NEGOTIATE, don’t break the unions, and then knock the employees who SERVE US ALL, down however it happens to be handy.

This will make you wonder…..

Did you ever wonder where the Republican Party of today came from? A site called Who Hijacked Our Country printed the 1956 Republican Party Platform:

“The Eisenhower Administration will continue to fight for dynamic and progressive programs which, among other things, will:

Stimulate improved job safety of our workers, through assistance to the States, employees and employers;

Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers;

Strengthen and improve the Federal-State Employment Service and improve the effectiveness of the unemployment insurance system;

Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits;

Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;

Federally-assisted construction, and maintain and continue the vigorous administration of the Federal prevailing minimum wage law for public supply contracts;

Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable;

Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex;

Provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment;

Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public.

The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration.”

Fascinating, no? I particularly liked “Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public” and “Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex.”

Perhaps the Republicans of today should find out what their party once stood for before the Gingriches, Reagans and Bushes turned it into right wing fanaticism.