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This Labor Day, Working Families Join Together to Change a Rigged System

New AFL-CIO Labor Day Report Shows Working People are Working More and Taking Fewer Vacation Days  

View Report Here: https://aflcio.org/reports/laboring-labor-day

(Washington, DC) – This Labor Day working families across the nation are participating in hundreds of events to commemorate the achievements of workers and to confront a rigged system that has favored CEOs and corporations for decades.

More than 200 events are taking place today, from barbecues to parades, where thousands of working people are massing to celebrate work, and urge elected officials to restore the freedom to join together and negotiate for better wages, benefits and time to spend with their families.

In Cleveland, families are gathering in a parade and picnic. In downtown Philadelphia, more than 5,000 people are expected to attend the 30th Annual Tri-State Labor Day Parade and Family Celebration, while across the state in Pittsburgh, working families are marching through the downtown area and in nearby northwestern Pennsylvania towns. Working people in Detroit are joining in the “Rise Up Unions—Fight for Your Rights” parade.

In addition, in Milwaukee more than 4,000 working people and their families will join under the theme “Stand Together, Stand Strong: Join the Fight for Workers’ Rights.” The day’s activities include a Labor Day parade followed by a festival (Laborfest), with local labor and community leaders on the bill.

“Labor Day is an opportunity to both recognize the achievements of working people and identify areas for improvement,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Today, work and time off are badly out of balance. More people are working more holidays, taking fewer vacations and bringing more work home at night. This means less freedom—freedom to take time off when you or a loved one gets sick, rest and recharge after giving birth, attend your child’s recital or sporting event, or just catch up on some household chores.”

A poll released by Gallup last week showed 61% of adults surveyed approved of labor unions—the highest percentage since 2003. According to this poll, most respondents would like unions to have greater influence. This could be the result of the continuous erosion of wages and rights, including paid time off, as outlined in a Labor Day report commissioned by the AFL-CIO.

The federation’s report found that while 78% of workers say they have the day off on Labor Day, more than a quarter of those people expect to do some work, and more than half of those working will not receive overtime benefits. More than half of Americans surveyed said they were working more holidays and weekends than ever, and 43% said they brought work home at least one night a week.

Union members are more likely to receive Labor Day off and overtime pay compared with their nonunion counterparts. Sixty-six percent of union members receive overtime pay on Labor Day, compared with 38% of nonunion members. Women, often the primary caregivers in their families, are less likely than men to report access to paid time off—68% vs. 74%.

“Whether it’s raising wages, paid leave, gender and racial equality or simply the freedom to negotiate for a better life, unions are needed now more than ever,” Trumka said. “We can help deliver the economic rules working people are hungry for. That’s our focus and mission this Labor Day and beyond.”

Labor Day 2017: Remembering All That Labor Has Done For America

New York Labor Parade 1882

“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.”
Department of Labor, History of Labor Day

Today, we celebrate Labor Day: A day to honor all that the labor movement has done to help working people. Over the past 140 years, labor unions have fought and died to improve the working conditions and the lives of all workers.  Without labor unions we would not have things like weekends, vacations, retirement plans, and overtime.

It was also the labor movement that help to bring forth major social and economic changes like the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 & 2011, Social Security, and the Age Discrimination Act.  These are just of the dozens of laws that were proposed, pushed through, and ultimately passed with major help from labor unions.

Today, as was done in the first Labor Day parade in 1882, I will proudly march down main street flanked by my union brothers and sisters.  A smiling and waving reminder of all that labor has done for working people.

Some say the unions have become obsolete. They say that unions did a lot of good but we now have laws to protect us and that unions are no longer needed.

I say that could not be farther from the truth.

Yes, we have workplace safety protections and laws governed by OSHA, a program that unions helped to create, but every year politicians attack OSHA.  They slashed OSHA’s budget and told us that “industry” can regulate themselves.  The entire reason OSHA was created was because greedy corporate executives could not “regulate themselves” and put profits over the health and safety of their employees.

Even with OSHA, workers are still pushed to bend or outright break these safety regulations.  In 2016, OSHA sent out over 35,000 violations.  Failure to abide by fall protection regulations is once again at the top of the list with over 6,900 citations issued.

It is not just worker safety regulations that are rolling back. Just a few days ago the Republican led Legislature in Missouri pushed through a new law to lower the minimum wage in St Louis from $10 an hour to the state minimum of $7.70 an hour.  That’s right, the local city government raised the minimum wage and the state government passed a new law to make it illegal for cities within the state to raise the minimum wage in their area.  This new law is literally stealing $2.30 an hour from the hard working low-wage workers in St Louis.

Over the past few years, support for labor unions has continued to grow.  Working people are still suffering and struggling to pay their bills as wages have become stagnant.  Jobs are being shipped overseas and income inequality has grown to a point that rivals The Great Depression.  Working people are beginning  to realize the unions have been there fighting back all of this time and now labor unions’ approval rating exceeds 60%.  Support for unions has gained 13 points in the last ten years alone.

Personally, I am glad to see the labor movement doing more to get back to their roots, fighting for social and economic justice.  Labor unions are on the front lines of many of the major issues facing our country right now including:  Systemic racism, income inequality, climate change, access to the ballot box, LBGTQ rights, and women’s reproductive rights.

Every one of these issues affects the lives of working people and that is why labor unions are joining the fight. Should an employer be able to fire a worker for getting pregnant?  What are the health risks to all workers as the Trump administration rolls back environmental protections and allows companies to put more carbon into the air we breathe?  Should a worker be fired because they are gay or transgender?

These may not be what people think of as traditional union issues but are these any different from when labor helped push through an end to segregation?

So today,  as we celebrate Labor Day, let us remember all of the things that labor has done to help make America a better place for everyone.

Celebrate Labor At The 33rd Bread and Roses Heritage Festival

The 33rd Bread and Roses Heritage Festival takes place on Labor Day, September 4, 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., on the Common in Lawrence, MA, a free, one-day ‘open air’ celebration for the whole family. It is the only Labor Day festival on the East Coast and commemorates the important contributions the Lawrence strikers of 1912 made to the history of the labor movement.

This year, we have again great participation by Labor:

Opening the Festival, at 11:30 a.m.: Ceremony at the Strikers’ Monument across from
City Hall, sponsored by the Strikers’ Monument Committee

Labor representatives at Lawrence History Live, our popular speakers’ tent, presenting on current union actions (Rand Wilson, Pablo Ruiz), Steve Thornton and Louise Sandberg  speaking on Labor and WW I, Corey Dolgon on his new book, “Kill It To Save It,” Mark Chester on his Photography of Massachusetts Immigrants, Riahl O’Malley on United for a Fair Economy,   Steve Kellerman on the hostory of the class struggle in the U.S, and Karen Lane on the Barre, VT, Labor Hall then and now

2015 Bread and Puppet Theater

A Community Corner with Soap Box, in the tradition of the free speech activism of the Wobblies and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Everyone is invited to address Festival visitors and our Headline Performers:

Bread and Puppet Theater   –   famed progressive theater for young and old http://breadandpuppet.org

Tigerman WOAH – Rock and Roll from Lynn, with working-class roots http://tigermanwoah.com

Catie Curtis – Vivid, compelling and addictive melodies and energy of nationally known singer-songwriter – her fimal show for the foreseeable future! http://catiecurtis.com

Angkor Dance Troupe – Bringing to life—and innovating—Cambodian performanc arts. Their 30th year! http://angkordance.org

Andre Veloz – Singer-songwriter, painter, and actress: la Batchatera transforming the genre . . . the “Dominican Blues” http://andreveloz.com

Also performing:

Ceschi – Progressive hip-hop spliced with elements of folk and indie rock from New Haven http://ceschimusic.com

Ubuntu –   Boston-based reggae/soul and world-fusion band http://ubuntugroove.com

Anthony Bernabel – Latin jazz by the renowned and admired Dominican saxophonist

and many more! 

Full Schedule available here.  

The popular Trolley Tours of historic Lawrence. –   Lots of children’s activities!

Join us!


Find us on Facebook: /BreadAndRosesFest/ and Twitter: @1912BreadRoses

Berry Craig: ‘An injury to one is the concern of all’

AFT Local 1360

Knights_of_labor_seal_standardI often think about the old Knights of Labor on Labor Day.

Okay, I’m a retired history teacher who still packs a union card.

The Knights “tried to teach the American wage-earner that he was a wage-earner first and a bricklayer, carpenter, miner, shoemaker, after; that he was a wage-earner first and a Catholic, Protestant, Jew, white, black, Democrat, Republican, after,” historian Norman Ware wrote.

The Knights stressed that whatever else divided working people, work itself was what they all had in common. Work was, by far, the most important factor in their lives. Thus, workers should unite as members of the working class, the Knights urged.

Active in the late 19th-century, the Knights were among the pioneers in our union movement. There were even Knights in western Kentucky, where I was born, reared and still live. The Fulton group published a newspaper called The Toiler.

The paper and the Knights are long gone.

But the union’s basic principle is still relevant: Working people, no matter what jobs we have, are wage earners first. “An injury to one is the concern of all,” was the Knights’ famous motto. It still rings true.

Anyway, I spent twenty-four years as a teacher. I was a newspaper reporter for almost 13 years before that.

But I was always a wage-earner and a worker first. I belong to the working class just like a factory worker, construction worker, dock worker, miner, truck driver, carpenter, painter, plumber, electrician, firefighter, garbage collector, grocery clerk, secretary and every other worker. We all belong to the working class.

History is plain about what has most benefitted the working class: unions and New Deal-style government action on our behalf. A big part of the New Deal guaranteed our right to organize unions and bargain collectively for better wages, hours, working conditions and benefits.

My maternal grandparents, Susie and Diehl Vest of Mayfield, my hometown, remembered how the union and the New Deal made their lives better.

“Bobo” belonged to the Almagamated Clothing Workers at the old Merit Clothing Co. “Grandadden” worked out of Paducah Painters Local 500, which is still around.

The Vests voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt all four times he ran. (FDR and Abraham Lincoln tie as their grandson’s favorite presidents.)

Senator and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey was one of my favorite politicians. Molly Ivins was one of my favorite newspaper columnists. Both of them also knew what helped the working class the most.

“America is a living testimonial to what free men and women, organized in free democratic trade unions, can do to make a better life,” said HHH, whom I voted for in 1968, the first year I was eligible to cast a ballot.

Said Ivins: “Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers (sadly, that percentage has shrunk as so many of our good union jobs have been shipped out of the country) are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.”

Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day 2015: A New Hope For Labor


labordayOnce again we have reached Labor Day.

Labor Day is the unofficial end of the summer and for many people it is an excuse to have everyone over for one last BBQ. Too many have forgotten what Labor Day is all about. They have forgotten why we celebrate Labor Day.

I would be lying if I told you that my family spent Labor Day talking about workers and strikes. Like most Americans, we spent the long weekend traveling for one last summer trip.

I will say one of my first memories was walking the picket line with my mother and hundreds of other nurses who were protesting budget cuts that eliminated jobs and reduced pay. I do not even remember what union it was that led the protest or if my mother was a member before the strike. Those are things we just never talked about when I was a kid.

As I grew up I learned more and more about the history of Labor Day. I learned of the horrible working conditions of the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s. I learned the difference between a strike and a lock-out. I learned about unions and how they shaped who we are as workers today.

In short, I learned about the true meaning of “labor” and why we celebrate Labor Day.

The sad fact is that many people have forgotten that it was the labor unions that fought for better working conditions and on-the-job safety programs. It was the labor unions that fought for eight-hour workdays, weekends, and overtime. It was the labor unions that fought for paid vacation time, paid sick leave, healthcare and retirement security. It was the labor unions that ensured equal pay for equal work regardless of sex or the color of your skin.

It was a labor union contract that first gave same-sex couples the right to include their partners on their healthcare plans, giving them the same rights as any other married couple.

It was labor unions that kept the corporations in check, refusing to let their greed dominate the needs of their workers and their communities.  By demanding higher wages in the mills and shops, unions helped to lift the wages of all workers. They created the middle class that we are so desperately searching for again. Workers were paid well and they spent that money in their communities, and that led to decades of economic prosperity.

However, in the late 1970’s a new era of individual greed began to surface and people forgot about working together. Manufacturing began to slow down as technology became more dominant. Workers moved out of the factories and into the office buildings.

Over time, membership in labor unions declined and the middle class began to shrink along with it. Workers wages became stagnant as productivity skyrocketed. Women began to enter the workforce en masse; some to fulfill personal goals and others because the traditional, one-working-parent household could not pay the bills anymore.

After thirty years of decline, what do we as a country have to show for it? We have a country with more than 15% of our citizens living in poverty, and 1-in-5 children living in poverty. We have millions of people working fifty, sixty, or even seventy hours a week just to feed their families.

America used to be different. American companies used to respect workers, not treat them like disposable cups, tossing them aside for a new one every day. American companies used to take pride our country. These companies paid their taxes and together we built a national highway system, airports, hospitals, parks, and libraries.

What happened to that country?   Are we completely doomed?

Fast Food Strike 2014 (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

Fast Food Strike 2014 (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

I say no. The tide has reached its lowest point and is beginning to rise again. People are beginning to see that we need to stand up together and fight for each other and our communities. People are starting to demand the right to form a union in their workplace, whether they are college professors or fast food workers. Public polling shows more support for labor unions than any time in the past 15 years.

I see it in my own children too. Recently at a family get-together someone mentioned that they just purchased trinket from Wal-Mart. My oldest daughter piped right up and said, “We don’t shop at Wal-Mart because they treat their workers badly.”

My wife and I looked at each other and smiled. Parenting win!

So this Labor Day take a few minutes to read about the true history of Labor Day. Talk with your kids about what it was like for people before labor unions. Ask yourself: do you want to go back to those days?

As for me, I will be honoring those union members of the past who fought and died in the labor movement, by walking down Main Street in our local Labor Day parade with my union brothers & sisters, my wife, and my children, proudly wearing my union T-shirt for all to see.

Happy Labor Day.




Labor Day Statement From LiUNA President Terry O’Sullivan

LIUNA Banner“Labor Day is about recognizing the dignity of hard work and those who do it.” 

Washington, DC: Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) General President Terry O’Sullivan today made the following statement regarding Labor Day.

Today the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) honors all those who worked, fought, struggled, sacrificed, and even laid down their lives for justice in the work place. We also call upon all Americans and Canadians to think about, honor, and thank the blue-collar men and women who keep both of our countries running. Labor Day is about recognizing the dignity of hard work and those who do it.

LIUNA is proud to represent half a million construction workers, healthcare workers, public and federal employees, mail handlers, and other hard working men and women. We are proud that among our members are military veterans who have traded their helmets for hard hats, and now are building strong, middle-class lives for themselves and their families. Our members are not only the greatest asset of our union; they, and all workers, are the lifeblood of our two nations.

Labor Day is a time to recognize those who are frequently overlooked: the working class heroes who labor, day in and day out, at jobs that are essential to our lives, our economy, and our world. Increasingly, these workers and their families are losing economic ground and political power, while being dismissed and disparaged by many policy-making elites. Too often, we look right through the people whose hard work, dedication, and back-breaking labor have built our two great countries.

This Labor Day, let’s resolve to start turning things around. Let’s begin working together to close the growing gap between haves and have-nots. Let’s push our elected officials to stop playing political games and start passing legislation to move our nations forward, create jobs, and solve problems. And let’s truly honor working men and women by respecting them, thanking them, and strengthening their rights to band together and bargain for better pay, benefits, and working conditions.

New Video: AFGE Celebrates Labor Day with Call for Solidarity

Activists from nation’s largest federal employee union discuss power of unity at the worksite

WASHINGTON – A new Labor Day video from the American Federation of Government Employees highlights the importance of solidarity in improving working conditions for people across the country and around the world.

In the video, nine union activists from AFGE – the largest union for federal and D.C. government employees in the nation – discuss what the term “solidarity” means to them.

“Solidarity is a ‘we, not me’ mentality,” says Paul Ferris of AFGE Local 2516 in El Paso, Texas. “It’s where we work together for others.”

“It’s all about sticking together and using the power of one voice to take another step, to make another day better, for workers,” says Gabrielle Martin of AFGE Local 3230 in Denver.

“Whether it’s in the trades, in the white collar, the blue collar, whether it’s this country or another country, we have to stand for all workers’ rights,” says Kathleen Dahl of AFGE Local 2028 in Pittsburgh.

The video was produced in-house by AFGE’s Communications Department. To view more AFGE videos, visit www.youtube.com/afgeonline.

Labor Day Must be Much More Than a One-Day Celebration

Transportation Trade Department LogoWashington, DC — The following statement was issued by Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), in advance of the Labor Day holiday:

“For far too long, our country has distanced itself from the true meaning of Labor Day. Labor Day can’t be just another federal holiday – it must be a celebration of the contributions of working people, and a commitment by elected officials to advance policies that help working families.

“For generations, the United States has been a place that honors hard work, respects the need for balance between the responsibilities of a job and family and empowers its people to pursue the American dream. That empowerment has come from the simple notion that working people can come together to form strong unions and bargain collectively for fair wages, good benefits and safe working conditions.

“Sadly, these values are being undermined by brutal attacks on the jobs and rights of working people by well-funded special interests. Even worse, these sinister forces have the backing of many public officials at the highest levels of government who are leading the charge down this dangerous and unsustainable path.

“We have come to a tipping point in this country. Our middle class is shrinking and the people we elect are failing to advance common sense policies — like funding transportation infrastructure — that for decades have fueled prosperity, boosted American competitiveness and expanded the middle class.

“We will use this Labor Day as a springboard to demand more from public officials, so that America is once again a place that honors working people every day, not just on the first Monday in September.”

Kelly Ayotte Wishes Her DC And Wall Street Special Interests A Happy Labor Day

Concord, N.H. – As Granite Staters prepare to celebrate Labor Day this weekend, it’s important to remember Kelly Ayotte’s record of putting her special interest backers before New Hampshire’s workers and small businesses. 

Since going to Washington, Ayotte has fought to roll back Wall Street reform and protect special tax breaks for big oil companies and outsourcers, while making New Hampshire’s families and businesses pay the price. From voting multiple times against raising the minimum wage and ensuring paycheck fairness to voting to cut Pell Grants and opposing a measure to help young people to refinance their student loans, Ayotte has consistently voted against the economic interests of New Hampshire.

“With Kelly Ayotte’s record of putting her special interest backers before New Hampshire’s families and businesses, it’s crucial that we ensure that next Labor Day is Ayotte’s last as a U.S. Senator,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.   

The Evolution Of Labor Day (Info-Graphic)

As we approach Labor Day it is important to stop and take a look back at how far we have come as organized labor.  180 years ago adults and children were working 12-hour days, 7 days a week, and they still “owed their soul to the company store.”

Throughout the last 200 years organized labor has moved America forward, fighting for all workers.  During the early years, labor unions were focused on three main items: the number of hours per day/week, hourly wages, and workplace safety.  Years have gone by, yet we are still fighting the same battles over hours, wages, and workplace safety.

Some people say that labor is dead, or dying.  I say we need unions now more than ever.  Working families are struggling as corporations and industry fat cats’ reap all the rewards of our hard work.  The rise in income inequality and the suppression of wages looks eerily similar to the years that led up to the Great Depression.

Workers have lost their voice, they have lost their power.  We are living in an age where employers no longer care about their employees, treating them as completely disposable. They only care about how much their decisions will effect their stock prices.

What corporate executives and Wall Street bankers do not seem to understand is that when you invest in the people you will reap greater rewards.  Higher wages for those at the bottom lead to more consumer spending, which creates higher demand, which leads higher sales and higher profits, all in all a strong vibrant economy.

Labor built the middle class, and we will never have the strong middle class we had back 50 years ago without labor.

Check out this great info-graphic the walks you through just a few of the hundreds of events build the labor movement.

Special thanks to MODIS for creating this info-graphic.


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