As summer comes to an end and we savor the last final moments before autumn leaves fall with one more wearing of the white shoes and grilling of the (union-made) BBQ, we owe a deep breath of gratitude to the blood, sweat and tears of the labor movement that helped shaped our freedoms as American workers.
For 131 years we have celebrated Labor Day as an extension of our founders' Declaration of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Through the grassroots organizing efforts of 17th-century laborers to the 100-year-old Department of Labor to today's domestic and fast food workers runs a tradition of solidarity and support for each worker's life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that the dignity that a good job with decent pay can bring.
This Labor Day comes at a time when public and private sector unions are under attack as never before. A wave of corporate libertarianism has swept the country, with budgets that give tax breaks to the so-called "job creators" -- big business -- at the expense of the "job performers -- the workers who build our economy.
After years of downward pressure on wages and benefits that public employees have been feeling for years. Benefits negotiated when private sector jobs were flush are resented now that recession takes its toll. In September 2010, as I blogged here at HuffPost, I participated in an American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) training where workers told me about over 100,000 jobs mowed down by the 2008 market crash and some seedlings growing from new business expansions.
As I reported then:
They said public service jobs that used to go unfilled are now staffed to capacity, with employee givebacks part of the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations. As my daughter and I shared deep fried Oreos served up by the local Democrats at their "Kickin' Donkey" Oktoberfest booth, the local activists ... said their main focus was fighting for jobs and for corporate accountability.
Well we know what happened after that. In Wisconsin, Republicans won the 2010 elections, rammed through a $117 million high-end tax cut, then moved to bust unions to fill a $137 million budget gap of their own making.
Similar actions occurred across the country, as the ALEC-backed Tea Party Republicans won fight after fight to erode workers rights -- and to suppress the voting rights that protect out freedoms.
But today we fight back. Fresh from the 50th anniversary of MLK's march for jobs and freedom, we fight to reclaim economic justice with big thanks to our brothers and sisters in the movement who fight for our freedoms every day:
Labor Day thanks to the freedom fighters who brought America the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, paid sick leave, the end of child labor, the establishment of rules for safety conditions in the workplace, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, national origin, skin color, religion or gender (to which we much include sexual orientation and gender identity).
Labor Day thanks to the freedom fighters for helping create the American safety net -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.
Labor Day thanks to the freedom fighters who protect collective bargaining and the working conditions unions have gained for nonunion workers across America.
Labor Day thanks to freedom fighters who give us a voice on the job, at the bargaining table and in the voting booth.
Labor Day thanks to the original "I Have A Dream" marchers and the youngest Dream Defenders for linking personal freedom and economic justice.
And Labor Day thanks to all the freedom fighters who make America stronger by respecting the dignity and worth of every worker. Solidarity forever!