Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

Let us Not Forget
Those Who Gave

First let us wish you a very Happy Labor Day. As we take the time with our families and enjoy those last few days of Summer it's so important to remember those in the labor movement who have given so much to make this country better for everyone regardless of their relationship to labor.

Labors original purpose was to simply allow for a safe working enviorment for all.  Since those early days labor has broadened its scope to succesfully lobby for every important issue facing the working class.  Some of these things which can so easily be taken for granted are:  

  • The 5 day work week
  • Employer Based Health Coverage
  • Family and Medical Leave
  • Overtime Pay
  • Child Labor Laws
  • Paid Vacation, Maternity leave
  • Pension Programs
  • Workers Compensation
  • Medicare
  • Occupational Health and Safety and so much more. 
These are things that we think of as a given and yet without a unified voice none would be a reality.

The next time someone expresses their opinions that our country would be better without Unions ask them if they would like to live in a Country without them.  Its clear what their answer would be.

Below is a listing that noted as their top 5 programs that Labor has done for each of us.  It's good way to gauge the effect that Organized Labor has had on the working class. 

1. Unions Gave Us The Weekend: Even the ultra-conservative Mises Institute notes that the relatively labor-free 1870, the average workweek for most Americans was 61 hours — almost double what most Americans work now. Yet in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century, labor unions engaged in massive strikes in order to demand shorter workweeks so that Americans could be home with their loved ones instead of constantly toiling for their employers with no leisure time. By 1937, these labor actions created enough political momentum to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act, which helped create a federal framework for a shorter workweek that included room for leisure time.

 2. Unions Gave Us Fair Wages And Relative Income Equality: As ThinkProgress reported earlier in the week, the relative decline of unions over the past 35 years has mirrored a decline in the middle class’s share of national income. It is also true that at the time when most Americans belonged to a union — a period of time between the 1940′s and 1950′s — income inequality in the U.S. was at its lowest point in the history of the country.

3. Unions Helped End Child Labor: “Union organizing and child labor reform were often intertwined” in U.S. history, with organization’s like the “National Consumers’ League” and the National Child Labor Committee” working together in the early 20th century to ban child labor. The very first American Federation of Labor (AFL) national convention passed “a resolution calling on states to ban children under 14 from all gainful employment” in 1881, and soon after states across the country adopted similar recommendations, leading up to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act which regulated child labor on the federal level for the first time.

4. Unions Won Widespread Employer-Based Health Coverage: “The rise of unions in the 1930′s and 1940′s led to the first great expansion of health care” for all Americans, as labor unions banded workers together to negotiate for health coverage plans from employers. In 1942, “the US set up a National War Labor Board. It had the power to set a cap on all wage increases. But it let employers circumvent the cap by offering “fringe benefits” – notably, health insurance.” By 1950, “half of all companies with fewer than 250 workers and two-thirds of all companies with more than 250 workers offered health insurance of one kind or another.”

5. Unions Spearheaded The Fight For The Family And Medical Leave Act: Labor unions like the AFL-CIO federation led the fight for this 1993 law, which “requires state agencies and private employers with more than 50 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave annually for workers to care for a newborn, newly adopted child, seriously ill family member or for the worker’s own illness.”

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