9.01.2013

happy labour day: thank a union, and thank the men and women who made unions possible

If you're enjoying a long weekend, take a moment to acknowledge the blood, sweat, and tears of the women and men who made that possible. This page from a regional AFL-CIO affiliate has a partial list of what we enjoy thanks to organizing labour.
36 Reasons Why You Should Thank a Union
Weekends
All Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks
Paid Vacation
FMLA
Sick Leave
Social Security
Minimum Wage
Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
8-Hour Work Day
Overtime Pay
Child Labor Laws
Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
40 Hour Work Week
Worker's Compensation (Worker's Comp)
Unemployment Insurance
Pensions
Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations
Employer Health Care Insurance
Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees
Wrongful Termination Laws
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
Whistleblower Protection Laws
Employee Polygraph Protect Act (Prohibits Employer from using a lie detector test on an employee)
Veteran's Employment and Training Services (VETS)
Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)
Sexual Harassment Laws
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
Holiday Pay
Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance
Privacy Rights
Pregnancy and Parental Leave
Military Leave
The Right to Strike
Public Education for Children
Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States
It's also worth remembering that the real labour day, the one organized by and for working people, is celebrated on May 1. The end-of-summer, official Labor Day was the US's Congress' set-aside, and it came with a heavy price. This is from an excellent essay by George Packer, from 2002.
Even the lionized firefighters have been reduced to the grubby embarrassment of contract disputes. "I'm tired of politicians coming to our funerals and telling the widows how sorry they are," Stephen J. Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said at a rally two weeks ago. "Pay us a living wage." Meanwhile, the Bush administration continues to pursue relentlessly anti-labor policies. America wants its workers to do everything except ask for a raise in return.

It shouldn't be surprising, then, to learn that Labor Day was born in hypocrisy and blood. President Grover Cleveland signed legislation creating the holiday in August 1894, less than a week after 12,000 federal troops crushed a rail strike in Pullman, Ill. With one eye on midterm elections, he salved labor's raw feelings by giving the country a day off in honor of its workers. The degeneration of Labor Day has continued fairly steadily over more than a century of barbecues, and by now it's probably our least sincere holiday. In the year of working-class heroes, we should do something real for labor, or else we should spare everyone tomorrow's clich├ęs and rededicate the first Monday in September to a cause that stirs genuine passion. Happy Investor's Day.

2 comments:

johngoldfine said...

It's infinitely depressing to me how our union members turn their frustrations with management and politicians against the easier target of the union itself.

Members drop away if management screws them over saying: 'You didn't win that grievance for me, so why should I pay you dues!'

Or: 'We haven't won a raise in four years, so I'll give myself a raise by dropping union membership!'

Or (worst of all): 'You have to represent me anyway, why should I join?'

During the small time-window when we can re-sign the dropouts or enlist new members, we have to sweet-talk and smooth-talk and peddle the soft-soap and bow and scrape and grin, and it kills me because sometimes I want to grab these jackasses by the lapels and scream at them, nose to nose and saliva spraying in rage, 'You dumb fuckhead, you're only as happy as you are because of other people's work and sacrifices. Now shut your stupid-ass piehole and join the union!'

But that kind of motivational speech seems to be frowned on....

:)

laura k said...

OMG John, it is incredibly frustrating!

Right now I am involved in a member-to-member campaign, aimed at activiating or re-activating membership, to beat back anti-union legislation now on the horizon. (Our campaign is here.)

ALL THE TIME I hear anger expressed at the union that should be directed at management and a complete lack of understanding how much WORSE it would be if we were not unionized.

It often tests my patience and my ability to stay calm while repeating the same thing I said to the previous member, over and over again.

sometimes I want to grab these jackasses by the lapels and scream at them, nose to nose and saliva spraying in rage, 'You dumb fuckhead, you're only as happy as you are because of other people's work and sacrifices. Now shut your stupid-ass piehole and join the union!'

Next time maybe I'll try this nose-and-saliva method! It sounds much more satisfying! (And quicker!)