September 1, 2014
By Justin Brannan
Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894 to honor trade and labor organizations throughout the country with a day of parades and festivals. Here’s one proud union man’s take on the holiday.
My grandfather Matteo was a shop steward with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. My grandmother Lucy spent her entire career as a member of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. My mom, a schoolteacher, was a member of the United Federation of Teachers before she began teaching in Catholic school. I was a shop steward with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and I will always be a “union guy” whether or not I’m currently in a union.
You can never underestimate the power of the people. And you can never underestimate the power of organized labor.
American values, civil rights, the 40-hour work week, minimum wage law, right to overtime pay, Social Security, unemployment insurance, equal pay for women, and Medicare all came to be with the support, leadership, and sacrifice of American Labor. And, for as pedestrian as these things may sound today, people fought and died for each and every one of these concepts.
So while we’re all enjoying this long weekend let us not forget the meaning of Labor Day: the strength and esprit de corps of the labor and trade organizations, the workers and their families. Let us remember the culmination of years of struggle by the American labor movement, the achievements of the American worker and the incredible contributions to our society that have been made by workers who have chosen to organize and form unions, using their collective strength to build a stronger nation one built on economic opportunity and justice for all.
Now more than ever, as economic conditions continue to widen the gap between the wealthy and the working middle class, let us not forget the meaning of “Labor” Day.
*** Justin Brannan is an aide to Councilman Vincent Gentile and is president of the Bay Ridge Democrats