This weekend we recognize the efforts of the American Workforce. The holiday was originally started in NYC, and pushed across the country by the Labor movement. It became a National Holiday when President Grover Cleveland signed the act in an effort to make amends for using military force to stop a railway strike in Pullman IL.
It is a time when we, and the union membership, can relax and reflect on how important their movement has been and perhaps still is. We should all consider what they have accomplished for this country. In many ways they are a critical counterbalance to arrogant industry owners. Unions can rightfully take credit for such good things as, elimination of child labor, safer work conditions, better pay, better benefits, and in the end, perhaps better product safety.
Without unions I wonder what our transportation system would be like today? Would you still be able to tell how experienced a rail worker was by the number fingers he had lost? Would teamsters still be risking their lives without knowing what they were carrying and having the right to insure it was safely packed?
How about in the mining industry? Would coal miners still be living in company towns becoming more indentured to the owners each day of their lives so there was no future for the children? Would we still believe mine cave-ins are an expected cost of business, rather than the rarity they are?
In the textile industry would children, women and men still be putting in 12-18 hour days running the industrial looms that created the fabrics necessary to cloth our nation and the world? Would owners still have the right to force themselves on the workers to do whatever they wanted done?
But as we consider the benefits to unions we need also to consider the costs and our ability to pay those costs.
In transportation, in mining, in the textile industries, are they as financially viable today as they were 75 years ago? Do they still employ the numbers of Americans they once did? Why not? Where do the children of those American’s who once worked in these industries now turn to provide them a livelihood? Do they all become teachers, civil servants, police and fire fighters, or barista’s? These are providers of service, but not producers of goods that can be sold abroad to balance our payments for imports. What will the American labor force look like tomorrow, and what role will the Unions play in shaping an America that is economically strong and viable?
Happy Labor Day ya’all!