Proud product of union labor discusses Labor Day

A proud product of union labor explains why this holiday is so important to him

Brooklyn Daily
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Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894 to honor trade and labor organizations throughout the country with a day of parades and festivals.

Here’s one proud union man’s take on the holiday.

My grandfather Matteo was a shop steward with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. My grandmother Lucy spent her entire career as a member of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. My mom, a schoolteacher, was a member of the United Federation of Teachers before she began teaching in Catholic school. I was a shop steward with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and I will always be a “union guy” whether or not I’m currently in a union.

You can never underestimate the power of the people. And you can never underestimate the power of organized labor.

American values, civil rights, the 40-hour work week, minimum wage law, right to overtime pay, Social Security, unemployment insurance, equal pay for women, and Medicare all came to be with the support, leadership, and sacrifice of American Labor. And, for as pedestrian as these things may sound today, people fought and died for each and every one of these concepts.

So while we’re all enjoying this long weekend let us not forget the meaning of Labor Day: the strength and esprit de corps of the labor and trade organizations, the workers and their families.

Let us remember the culmination of years of struggle by the American labor movement, the achievements of the American worker and the incredible contributions to our society that have been made by workers who have chosen to organize and form unions, using their collective strength to build a stronger nation one built on economic opportunity and justice for all.

Now more than ever, as economic conditions continue to widen the gap between the wealthy and the working middle class, let us not forget the meaning of “Labor” Day.

Justin Brannan is an aide to Councilman Vincent Gentile and is president of the Bay Ridge Democrats

Updated 2:32 pm, September 3, 2012
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Reader feedback

Bob from Gerritsen Beach says:
Dear Mr. Brannan,
I too have a long family history with organized labor. I just wish I had the optimistic view you share with the future of organized union labor. I doubt anyone under 40 years of age could comprehend the security one fell working under the umbrella of organized labor and its relationship with employers. Growing up in New York a union worker could start a family, buy a home, and send their children to college on a single income and retire with the security of a reasonable pension and Social Security. Today it is no longer true. Private-sector union jobs are in decline because of corporate greed. Public-sector union jobs are in constant attack by the very people we elect to represent us. They tell us that new policies will not affect people nearing retirement age. Okay, just my children and grandchildren. Never a word mentioned about elected official's salary or fringe benefits. Last year we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Fire here in New York. 146 people died, 126 women, some as young as 13 years of age along with my Great Aunt, Josie. Sometimes I think we are regressing back to those years of exploitation and cruelty to workers.
Sept. 3, 2012, 12:36 pm

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