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Monday, September 03, 2007


As Democratic Central reminds us.

"Remembering the contributions of organized labor, the people who brought you the weekend."
And more.

If you have an eight hour work day, overtime pay, a pension, health insurance, decent pay, and a two week vacation and some sick days - thank the Labor Movement.

Before workers were able to organize and engage in collective bargaining a 12 hour work day in unhealthy, uncomfortable and dangerous factories was the norm. People worked six days a week (great for family values and spending quality time with kids - and if you think children were better behaved then, no they weren't in slums like Hell's Kitchen, New York, and other squalid places across the country in big industrial cities).

Of course, many will point out that people are working more and longer hours today. We've lost the concept of the 8 hour day as work hours are creeping back up and people now work 60 hour work weeks. And we know that health insurance and pensions are once again becoming out of reach for the average middle class workers.

Consider that union membership in the private sector is at an all time low of 7 percent, compared to the 36 percent in its heyday. If ordinary Americans are losing ground, it could be the decline of organized labor because even non-union members benefitted by the reforms labor fought for.

You didn't have to be a union member factory worker to enjoy an 8 hour day, overtime pay and vacation time a few years ago. Non-union, white collar office workers enjoyed those same benefits because they became customary throughout the workforce. Those were standard working conditions.

You could have a movie called "Nine to Five" even back in the 70s because most workers actually worked those hours and had an hour off for lunch. They also had real paid vacations where they weren't attached to Blackberries and cell phones. They could spend quality time with children without being interrupted by an email in the middle of their child's Little League game.

And contrary to assertions from some anti-union conservatives, most middle class workers recognize the ground they've lost in job security and good working conditons. They tell reporters they would like to have a union to join.

I'll probably have more to report on this, with sources to link to, in the near future.

For now, Happy Labor Day. And hopefully, relief is coming.

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