Today, September 6, 2021, Labor Day in the USA, brings nothing to celebrate for American workers. As the most recent Labor Department monthly job report a few days ago revealed, job recovery has hit a wall. After averaging 750,000 jobs over each of the preceding three months, from May to July, job recovery this past August fell by more than two-thirds, to only 235,000. The jobs numbers were particularly weak for job recovery in the service occupations, which were hit hard by Covid resurgence. Jobs in hotels, bars, and restaurants in late July-early August–i.e. the period covered by the latest government jobs reports–began contracting once again following three months of recovery May to mid-July. Moreover, due to the Covid delta variant intensifying during August, the numbers will likely worsen further through August and into September, given that only 53% of Americans are vaccinated.
As our second pandemic Labor Day approaches, Black worker leaders are determined to never again bear the brunt of a national crisis as they have under Covid-19. How can we make the recovery more equitable — and improve conditions for Black workers before the next crisis hits? We asked nine leading Black labor organizers and policy advocates for their views.
The Roman philosopher and statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero said: “Freedom is participation in power.” By that standard Americans are not free. We do not participate in power. We do not even have power over our own economic lives, our elected “representatives” ignore us and listen to the moneyed interests sending the United States in the wrong direction on issue after issue. The American people know better, would govern better and need to participate in power. When you dispassionately review the reality of the U.S. economy, it is a depressing state of affairs that screams out for Americans to get up, stand up and shout: “we can do better than the political and economic elites.”
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.
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.