Labor Day this year is about workers everywhere who are fighting back. Over the past week, thousands of low-wage workers have walked off the job to demand a living wage and the right to unionize without management intimidation. The brave workers in the retail, fast-food and warehouse industries have been joined by increasing numbers of their coworkers — and now, truckers.
This week Los Angeles port drivers who want to join the Teamsters waged a powerful one-day strike against retaliation from the company for organizing. Two days later, fast-food workers waged the largest national strike in that industry, with workers in 60 cities participating. Walmart retail and warehouse workers, along with hundreds of low-wage workers employed by government contractors, are staging massive walkouts with increasing frequency.
Outside of the workplace, Americans are fighting to reclaim rights stolen from us with the passage of right-to-work for less in Michigan. Hundreds have been arrested in Wisconsin and North Carolina because they are fed up with the vast right-wing conspiracy against workers. People are pushing back against ALEC and its drive to crush unions, kill public education, suppress voting and undo workplace rights that people fought and died for decades ago.
On the first Monday of every September, our nation honors the contributions and sacrifices of millions of working men and women. This year’s Labor Day comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
American workers are not alone. Some 200,000 workers in Colombia are on strike against unfair trade agreements and poverty. In Europe workers have been mobilizing and waging general strikes against the austerity agenda that is holding the continent’s middle class hostage.
It is struggles like these that have characterized the American labor movement, which has brought working families a long way in this country’s history. The weekend, the 40-hour work week and laws against child labor are just some of the things that labor has won for American workers. But we also have a long way to go.
Many often forget that Dr. Martin Luther King’s great “I Have A Dream” speech was delivered at a march for jobs. This Labor Day gives us a chance to reflect on that message and the ongoing movement for economic justice in America.
This Labor Day is about remembering labor’s triumphs and the workers without whom society would not function. But it’s also about solidarity and celebrating our movement – a movement that today is alive and well and fighting like hell for a strong middle class.