To the Editor:
Labor Day is a three-day weekend filled with picnics, concerts and fairs, all celebrating the last hurrah of summer. While always a sweet ending to summer, what is Labor Day actually meant to celebrate?
Labor Day was created by unions in the late 1800s to honor American workers’ contributions to society and industry. It provided Americans with a well-deserved day off, even if it was unpaid. It also gave union members the opportunity to gather, discuss issues, support each other, and organize to improve workers’ lives. At that time, most Americans worked 12-hour days and 6 or 7-day work weeks. Children as young as 6 years old worked in factories and mines alongside adults.
Working conditions were often dangerous.
Through the years, unions have been instrumental in the establishment of many practices that we take for granted today, including 8-hour work days, 5-day work weeks, child labor laws, fair wages, health and retirement benefits, and career training. Today, unions remain at the forefront of efforts to improve working conditions, advocate for fair wages and benefits, and preserve the dignity of every worker.
I am a special education para-educator and an 11-year member of SEIU local 284. My union provides me with the opportunity to have a voice in a career that I love. Equally as important to me is being part of a group of people working to support issues that ensure we have the best possible educational system. SEIU continuously fights for adequate educational funding at the State Capitol.
So I hope this Labor Day you relaxed, enjoyed time with family and friends and remembered the contributions of union members which enable us to kick back and have weekends to enjoy!