What Labor Day Means To My South Side And Black Union Family

640px-a_janitor_cleaning_up_the_sidewalk

By Dorian Warren for Chicago Sun Times – My grandparents were janitors in Chicago, the children of sharecroppers who fled the racist violence and oppression of the South for new opportunities in the North. They began their working lives in the 1940s when jobs did not have benefits like pensions and health care. They lived in public housing because black people could not move wherever they wanted. But my grandparents made a fateful decision one day to join the union. That single decision influenced the opportunities for all the subsequent generations in my family. My family’s union story is that of black American families who joined the middle class with good-paying jobs, benefits and better working conditions. My janitor grandparents were members of the Janitors’ Union, SEIU Local 1. The union ensured they had jobs that helped them save money and eventually buy a home on the South Side. The union ensured my grandparents could send the first person in our family to college – my mother. In the 1950s, only two avenues were available to smart, young black women like my mom. She could be a nurse or a teacher. She chose teaching and taught in public school for more than 40 years.

Labor Day: Lots Of Worker Victories This Summer

First Labor Day Union Square,  New York

By Michael Arria for AlterNet. Labor Day is regarded as “the unofficial end of summer” for many Americans, a time for one last cookout party and back-to-school discounts. Its history is all but forgotten but it remains crucial. The holiday was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland in 1894, days after members of the United States Army and the United States Marshall Service had killed 30 workers during the Pullman Strike. The legislation was something of an attempt to win hearts and minds: unions were justifiably skeptical of the government and the holiday was seen as a way to win some support. May 1st was floated out, but people already celebrated International Workers’ Day on that day, commemorating the workers killed during the Haymarket Affair. Cleveland thought celebrating Labor Day on May 1st would encourage more protests, strikes and riots. The first Monday of September was selected to avoid further unrest. This Labor Day is a particularly great opportunity to remember the holiday’s history as 2016 has featured some major victories for workers.

Newsletter: Labor Day Time To Build Worker Power

Low Wage Protest

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers for Popular Resistance. Private-sector workers who are members of a union have fallen from 1 in 3 workers in the 1950s to about 1 in 20 today. Politics is about power and the loss of organized worker power has meant a loss in political power for all workers and a loss of wealth, income and benefits. In recent years, there have been strong signs that labor is getting more organized and militant in fighting for worker rights. They have linked worker issues to other issues, e.g. racial injustice, climate change and creating stronger communities; and are showing signs of resurrection. Recent years have seen aggressive attacks against workers: pension funds are raided, health benefits are cut or ended, the right to collective bargaining is destroyed and social services are cut. This is dramatic and needs to be reversed.

Newsletter: The Economy of the Future-Economic Democracy

Economic Democracy

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers for Popular Resistance – This Labor Day weekend rather than looking at the history and current struggles of workers, we look to the future and imagine what will work be like in 2025 or 2050. What will the overall economy look like? What is our vision for an economy that works for the people? There are some major trends that indicate we are in the midst of a radical transformation of what work means and how people will have income. There will never be enough jobs in the future so we need a new way to ensure people have money on which to live and to keep the economy going. It is time to figure out how to provide people with a basic income where everyone receives a single basic income to provide for a comfortable living whether they work or not. To create wealth among workers, worker ownership through worker cooperatives or worker self-directed enterprises need to be encouraged. It takes roots to weather a storm, and the storm is here.