ECLECTIC RANT: Labor Day 2018

Ralph E. Stone
Sunday September 02, 2018 - 01:38:00 PM

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. Labor Day became an official federal holiday in 1894. This year, Labor Day will be celebrated on Monday, September 3.

Corporations did not all of a sudden give workers two days off each week, which we now call weekends, or paid vacations and sick leave, or rights at the workplace, or pensions, or overtime pay. Virtually all the benefits we have at work, whether in the public or private sector, are because unions fought hard and long against big business who did everything they could to prevent giving us these rights. 

Thanks to collective bargaining, union members have higher wages and better benefits. In addition, union membership actually raises living and working standards for all working men and women, union and non-union. When union membership rates are high, so is the share of income that goes to the middle class. When those rates fall, income inequality grows and the middle class shrinks. 

However, labor membership is shrinking. In 2017, union membership was 10.7% of the workforce down from about one-third in1945. Yet, in 2017, union workers reported higher median weekly earnings ($1,041) than workers not covered by unions ($829). 

As of last year, 61% of Americans had a favorable opinion of labor unions, up from an all-time low of 48% in 2009. 

Why do we need unions anyway? Because they are essential for America. Unions are the only large-scale movement left in America that serve as a countervailing balance against corporate power, acting in the economic interest of the middle class. But the decline of unions over the past few decades has left corporations and the rich with essentially no powerful opposition.  

You may take issue with a particular union’s position on an issue, but remember they are the only real organized check on the power of the business community in this country.