Labor Day

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It's Labor Day again. Time again for politicians and union supporters to praise organized labor. And time again for others to ignore their words, as they mark the end of summer with yet another three-day weekend. But consider this while enjoying the Labor Day holiday: there would not be any three day weekends if it were not for labor unions. None.

If unions had not done what they did -- and continue to do -- it's highly unlikely that anyone outside of executive ranks would be getting any paid holidays. Nor is it likely that those required to work on holidays would be getting the premium pay that unions have made the standard for holiday work, or get premium pay for any other work, at any other time.

Holidays meant little to most working people in the days before unions became effective. They meant only an unwelcome day off and loss of a day's pay. Or, at best, a day of work at regular wages.

The paid vacations people took this summer also were very rare until unions won them. So were employer-financed pensions and medical care and other fringe benefits, health and safety standards, job security and other things now commonly granted most workers, union and non-union alike.

So we should not forget that without unions there would be no paid holidays for most people, no three-day weekends, no premium or overtime pay, no paid vacations and few fringe benefits, and little protection against job-related hazards and the arbitrary actions of employers.


Without unions, furthermore, the standard work day might very well still be 10 to 12 hours, the standard work week six to seven days. And working people would have few of the rights that many now take for granted. That includes, of course, the basic right of unionization, the right to have a genuine voice in determining their pay and working conditions.

That surely is far more than enough to honor organized labor today, on the holiday that it won for us all.

With a Perspective, this is Dick Meister.