Sunday, September 5, 2010

Enjoy Labor Day! - how we got here

Labor Day is the national holiday we celebrate always on the first Monday in September.  Thankfully Labor Day is a day off-work to relax and have fun, or if salaried and working probably a "double pay" day, and that's good too.  As the result of the collective efforts, the courage of those who lived before us, the formation of labor groups then unions-- written into federal law are workplace safety requirements, financial protection, and fair labor standards. 

Here is a Labor Day holiday video from the History television channel, total time 8:34 minutes video (4 categories described below, time sequence of each noted).  Information from that video has been outlined below, supplemented and linked in part for further detail and clarity.   

History and overview of Labor day.
0:00 to 3:28 minutes
The industrial revolution created a need for improved worker conditions.
1887 Oregon was the first State to recognize Labor Day, the holiday.
1894 Labor Day became a USA Federal Holiday.  President Cleveland declared the holiday as the result of a railway worker protest disaster (federal troops killed 2 workers).
1950's Unions grew to 1/3 of the labor force.  Labor Day was a time to rally for safer worker conditions, fair pay, and benefits.
Late 1970's the USA union labor force began to decline.
Current status:  "for most people Labor Day is summer's last hurrah!".

The factory
. 3:39 to 5:39 minutes
1910 Henry Ford was first to build cars by assembly line, an automation model which became the industry standard.*  Second generation, assembly line work has transitioned to robots doing much of the repetitive work while employees working along side. 

The origin and end of child labor, protest and demand for legislation. 5:40 to 7:27 minutes
Early 1800's, 1900's labor groups workers fought against child labor and to improve worker conditions but had little power until unions were formed.
20th century unions fought to put an end to child labor, and promote worker safety and living condition benefits.

Legislation through the US Department of Labor (the result of labor union effort). 
7:28 to 8:34 minutes
Wage and Hour Act (1938), Fair Labor Standards:  minimum wage, and hour standards (40 hour week, or overtime pay), limited work hours for children, record keeping.
Social Security Act (1935, 1939), Unemployment Compensation:  1) temporary and partial wage replacement, stabilize the economy during recessions.
Social Security Act (1935), Federal pension system:  initially industrial workers, the poor and elderly; then a "pay as you go" system expanded to include most workers. 
Wagner Act (1935), National Labor Relations:  employees have the right of self-organization, labor organizations, collective bargaining through their representatives. 

* Some problems with repeated assembly line automation are described in humor from Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, (the 1936 movie). Video 4:24 minutes.
And, later by Lucille Ball in the television sitcom I Love Lucy "Candy Assembly Line" (1950's). Video 2:59 minutes. 

Additional Labor Day references:  US Government.  And, The Department of Labor.

Posted by Kathy Meeh

No comments: