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Savor, celebrate Labor Day’s true meaning

Illustration of the first American Labor parade held in New York City on September 5, 1882, as it appeared in Frank Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated Newspaper’s September 16, 1882, issue. Join the 2017 Labor Day parades and events in your PEF regions

Summer is coming to an end and it is time to savor another Labor Day. Many of us will gather with families and groups of friends as our summer ends. With this in mind, we need to stop and appreciate the meaning of this civil holiday.

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When America was founded, most of the people were either farmers, men of the sea or involved in some related work. As people moved inland and became more aware of how enormous America really was, it was natural for them to choose from a broader range of occupations. As the railroad developed, mining natural resources became a way of life that helped build the country. As technology refined, labor took on a new face. The more traditional modes of work remained, but the American thirst for innovation became prominent.

Labor organized and unions found their niche in society while promoting a greater emphasis on the dignity of a working person. Labor Day developed as a way of showcasing the backbreaking labor that made America strong, independent, self-sufficient and the economic catalyst for the world.

Early Labor Day parades were made up of common men who went to work, took pride in what they did, were paid a fair wage, and reminded our country of her pride in her citizens. Labor Day parades were not to highlight politicians, but to honor working folks who went to work day after day providing for their family while building a middle class.

Of all the national holidays we have, Labor Day doesn’t get the attention it deserves. That may be because corporate America has not found a way to commercialize it as it has Christmas and other major holidays. Another reason is the original intent of this day has pretty much vanished since labor unions have become a part of the American business environment. It is important to remember unions were the early voice of the ordinary worker advocating for workers’ rights and fair wages.

The efforts of labor unions in the past to protect the well being of “voiceless workers” have resulted in the passage of legislation that now protects the rights and safety of many workers. However, many workers both near and far still fall into the “voiceless worker” category. I am referring to the seasonal workers who are harvesting our crops in upstate New York. These workers are playing an important role in our upstate New York economy. Textile workers of the world make most of our clothes you and I wear. They are part of the workforce throughout the world, including children working in extremely unsafe conditions. Who is there to advocate for them when it comes to fair wages, a safe working environment and basic human dignity?

On this Labor Day, please take a few minutes to reflect on the work of others who support the life to which you are accustomed. Please consider this huge network of workers who provide the food we eat, the clothing we wear, health care workers, firefighters and police just to mention a few; the list is endless.

The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living. It gives us meaning and supports our economy. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then basic rights of workers must be respected: the right to productive work; the right to organize and join unions; the right to own private property and the right to take the economic initiative.

As you enjoy this Labor Day weekend take a moment to appreciate all you have that is a product of another’s labor. Especially the products of the American worker! HAPPY LABOR DAY!

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Table of Contents – September 2017

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