For 125 years, nation has saluted American workers

It is fitting that a national holiday in the U.S. is devoted to the American worker, the individual who toils, often in obscurity, to support the capitalistic foundation that allows the American economy to thrive.

The labor movement was born in the late 19th century to give those Americans a voice in the system, to help protect the rights of the worker to a safe and healthy work environment and to be fairly compensated for their enormous contribution to the system.

While we celebrate this national holiday today in honor of the labor movement and the American worker, it’s important to remind ourselves that their plight is not easy. Never has been.

In 2019, much of the progress in worker rights is taken for granted, even though winning those rights was a hard-fought. What’s more, many of those rights remain under constant assault today. Labor unions have lost some of their political clout in recent years because legislatures on both the state and local levels have changed laws and strip them of their rights.

Corporations and businesses have seen their political power increase as they gain more advantages through massive financial donations to causes, parties and candidates that have inadequate oversight. All the while, the biggest contributors to politicians and political causes are allowed to hide their involvement behind campaign finance laws.

The reality is not in the workers’ favor. Personal incomes have not come close to keeping up with the monstrous profits of corporations and the individuals who run them.

The collective power of organized labor has been diminished in this political environment.

In Terre Haute, once a bastion for organized labor, labor unions still thrive and play a major role in construction, manufacturing, law enforcement, education and the public sector. Their presence has benefited the population and helped enhance our quality of life. Despite concerted and ongoing efforts by corporations and politicians to degrade their influence, labor unions continue to make enormous contributions to the overall welfare of this and other communities in Indiana.

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, has been a national holiday since 1894. Celebrating the contributions of workers and their unions has been a worthwhile exercise for 125 years. May the observance continue to hold special meaning for decades to come.

Recommended for you