Happy Labor Day!

Well, in most of the world, Labor Day  is on May 1st. In the United States, Grover Cleveland made it the first Monday in September specifically to avoid the connection of May 1 and the Haymarket Square Tragedy. The struggle that day for the 8 Hour Day was destroyed by government agents, but the long-term vision of those martyrs was eventually realized. In fact, if you happen to enjoy a weekend or a day off, thank the labor movement.

As we celebrate the rich labor history in the United States, we also need to think about ways to reinvigorate it. While the traditional labor movement has had a rough couple of decades, other parts of the labor movement have grown. Worker Cooperatives increase in size and number every year and the Industrial Workers of the World also seem to be growing. In the last year, the announcement of Mondragon and the United Steeelworkers stunned our world, but since then nothing has seemed to happen.

We need to find a way to get things moving again. We need to create a vision like the leaders of the bygone era had. Maybe not the “Eight Hour Day” or even “Abolish the Wage System”, but we need to create a common anthem and goal for the labor movement. It needs to be something that workers in worker coops and workers in labor unions can get behind and rally towards.

Health Care for All?

Free Education?

Free immigration (If Capital can move across borders, why can’t workers)?

Even a hundred years ago, workers were willing to fight and die for an 8 hour work day and the right to join a labor union. What is going to give this generation of laborers the passion needed to change the world?

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-op in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University and hopes to finish his Ph.D. in Business Administration soon. He has served on the board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and the Board of Governors for the Democracy at Work Network. He currently sits on the Co-op Circle and Mission Circle for Sociocracy for All. He teaches on worker co-operatives and democratic management in the summer at The Evergreen State College.
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