12 – 15-hour workdays in unsafe conditions, children as young as five working in mines, factories and on farms, no rest room breaks, no vacation days, no job protection, rampant sexual harassment… these were the working conditions in America before the Labor Movement. The greedy, unethical and ruthless 'Robber Barons' who used unfair business practices exploited their workers which led to riots, strikes and the emergence of the Labor Unions.
There were no laws that gave workers any protected rights. People died so you and your children are no longer exploited to make someone else wealthy. As one example, dozens of people were killed in the Pullman Strike of the late 1800s, when the federal government supported industries against workers.
The Labor Movement and the Unions it spawned are as American as apple pie. The early labor movement was inspired by a conception of the just society, and the theory of value and from the republican ideals of the American Revolution, which fostered social equality, celebrated honest labor, and relied on an independent, virtuous citizenship.
To hold a belief that Unions somehow weaken America or are socialist is to reject the truth of America. It is still a sad truth that one of the major political parties in America continually fight against the formation of Unions, and the right to collective bargain.
Like the factory workers of the 1930s and ‘40s, this generation of service sector workers is struggling to build a middle class by unionizing their workplaces. Still major employers like Amazon and Starbucks are accused of trying to subvert the formation of unions. Corporate elites are waging war against a generation of young workers who are unionizing.
As you cook-out and go to the beach this Labor Day Weekend, you can take a minute to think of those Labor Movement fighters who came before you that resulted in you having the right to paid holidays and weekends off, not to mention other little things like safe working conditions and your children being allowed to go to school instead of a factory for 12 hours a day.
There is still a battle in America to recognize the right to equal pay for women and people of color and guaranteed job security from the fear of being fired for being Gay or Lesbian.
Which side of the Labor Movement will you stand on?