Saturday, September 13, 2008

Labor Day 2008

I retain all my copyrights. Text and Photos Copyright Maria Merlino 2008. Do not publish to any other site.

The Apostle of the Labor Movement
Eugene V. Debs

“Ten thousand times has the labor movement stumbled and fallen and bruised itself, and risen again; been seized by the throat and choked and clubbed into insensibility; enjoined by courts, assaulted by thugs, charged by the militia, shot down by regulars, traduced by the press, frowned upon by public opinion, deceived by politicians, threatened by priests, repudiated by renegades, preyed upon by grafters, infested by spies, deserted by cowards, betrayed by traitors, bled by leeches, and sold out by leaders, but notwithstanding all this, and all these, it is today the most vital and potential power this planet has ever known, and its historic mission of emancipating the workers of the world from the thralldom of the ages is as certain of ultimate realization as is the setting of the sun.”

(Eugene V. Debs, Apostle of the Labor Movement-1898)

In the late 1800s, as the Industrial Revolution took hold of the nation, the average American, in order to make a basic living, worked 12 hours a day and seven days a week. Children were also employed, as they provided cheap labor to the bosses. Laws against child labor went largely ignored. In 1852, Philadelphia required children to attend not school, but a job!

With the long hours and appalling working conditions, American unions became more prominent and voiced their demands for a better way of life. On Tuesday September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first-ever Labor Day parade. Participants took an unpaid day-off to honor the workers of America, as well as vocalize issues they had with employers. It took more than a decade for Congress to finally legalize Labor Day.

While the Industrial Revolution did provide many jobs to scores of people, which resulted in the beginning of the middle-class, the heartbreaking reality, jobs created by Industry, were low-wage positions such as assembly line workers and machine operators, that barely allowed workers to subsist. Many workers found themselves living in squalor as they came home to filth-ridden housing. In great contrast, the investors and the owners of the factories and companies prospered financially on the back of labor. Labor Day resonants historical significance as it honors the efforts of early union organizers, like Eugene Victor Debs who established the standards that even non-union workers enjoy today: a 40 hour work week, sick leave, paid holidays, and a package of benefits. Debs played an important role in popularizing ideas and ideals which were denounced as radical, even un-American, in the early part of the 20th century. Branded a radical, government threw him in jail for his thoughts. These ideas later were considered acceptable and are now viewed as traditional. was that the vast majority of the

Although many of us see Labor Day as the last long week-end of summer, Labor Day is meant to be a celebration of the labor movement and its many achievements so that all of us can take this paid holiday to honor those workers who struggled in violent repression to attain a living wage to support families with security and well-being.

Dr. Jim Moylan, Political Director, Robert Henon and son Matthew

IBEW 98 Labor Leader John Dougherty, Hall of Fame athlete, Ken Adams

Telecommunication Local 98, Bob “Bubba” Adams,

Republican Ward Leader, Michael Cibik, Esq.