When I flipped my Old Farmer’s Almanac wall calendar to September, it greeted me with this quote:
Gardening is the only unquestionably useful job. – George Bernard Shaw
It certainly is a labor of love, at least for those of us that pursue gardening as a hobby and not a livelihood. For those who truly labored long and hard before us, Labor Day is more significant.
We can thank Labor, also known as Unions, for the following:
1. Unions Gave Us The Weekend: By 1937, these labor actions created enough political momentum to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act, which helped create a federal framework for a shorter workweek that included room for leisure time. [reference, below]
Thank you for the time to putter in my garden and extra time to spend with my family, both the two-legged and four-legged ones.
2. Unions Helped End Child Labor: “National Child Labor Committee” working together in the early 20th century to ban child labor. The very first American Federation of Labor (AFL) national convention passed “a resolution calling on states to ban children under 14 from all gainful employment” in 1881, and soon after states across the country adopted similar recommendations, leading up to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act which regulated child labor on the federal level for the first time.
Thank you for helping me keep my children safe. They have the freedom to tend school (please ignore the whining you hear from my open windows) and the freedom to be home with their family. They’re learning life skills to prepare them for future work, without sacrificing healthy lungs, potential loss of limb and a shortened lifespan.
3. Unions Won Widespread Employer-Based Health Coverage: “The rise of unions in the 1930′s and 1940′s led to the first great expansion of health care” for all Americans
We’re still working on this one, but with the recent passage of the Affordable Care Act, people like my sister with a chronic, pre-existing condition known as Multiple Sclerosis, can rest a bit easier.
4. Unions Spearheaded The Fight For The Family And Medical Leave Act: Labor unions like the AFL-CIO federation led the fight for this 1993 law, which “requires state agencies and private employers with more than 50 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave annually for workers to care for a newborn, newly adopted child, seriously ill family member or for the worker’s own illness.”
When I gave birth to my first child in 1997, I worked for an employer with fewer than 50 employees, so this benefit didn’t apply. Still, it’s a big step forward. I had to smile when I heard that Prince William will be the first to take advantage of a similar law in the UK. When my husband returned to work a mere two weeks after the birth of our first child, it was all I could do to keep from knocking him to the ground as he left home to spend 10 hours a day elsewhere. I managed not to break the baby who is now 16 and taller than I am.
On the sillier side of this important day, “In high society, Labor Day is (or was) considered the last day of the year when it is fashionable to wear white.”
With a pair of white felines and several pretty flowers still in bloom, we’ll be bending the ‘no white after labor day rule’ for some time.
- Think Progress: Four Reasons Everyone Should Thank Unions on Labor Day
- Wikipedia: Labor Day (US)