According to a new Gallup Poll, popular support for unions has shot up to 71 percent among Americans – the highest it has been since 1965. This marks a seven percent increase from before the COVID-19 outbreak when approval for organized labor sat at 63 percent.
It appears as if union struggles waged during the pandemic and, now, in its aftermath haven’t gone unnoticed by the American people.
When the bosses wanted workers to risk their lives for the sake of profit, our unions stood up.
Now, as these same corporations are shamelessly price-gouging, American unions are organizing to demand workers receive fair wages to match sharp increases in living costs.
Throughout the past two and a half years, the Albuquerque Teachers Federation (ATF) fought tirelessly to ensure your well-being as well as the safety of our students during the COVID pandemic.
When four members of the APS Board attempted to derail our contract last month, ATF members organized and advocated to get our agreement approved by reaching out to our community. Parents and our community allies know how hard we work each day serving our students, and they were there to help us fight for justice. Despite what any partisan news organizations might have us believe, the proof is in the pudding that our community supports educators and our ability to lift our voices collectively to win fair working conditions. This is because they know that our teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions.
With news of this surge in support for organized labor breaking just as we head into the Labor Day Weekend, the present moment seems a pivotal time to remember our union brothers and sisters who came before us. We stand on the shoulders of all those who fought for workers’ rights over the past two centuries. From the women of the Lowell Mills in the 1830s, who formed the first union of working women in American history, to the Battle of Cripple Creek to the 1970 Postal Strike and to workers’ present-day struggle to unionize at Amazon, Starbucks and other corporate workplaces. Our nation has a truly incredible labor history. We must uphold it. We must learn from it. We must teach it to our students.
In the late 1800s, most Americans (including children) worked long 12-hour days, seven days a week, in unthinkable conditions. This set the stage for the first Labor Day parade in New York City on September 5, 1882. Tens of thousands of workers risked losing their jobs when they laid down their tools and joined the planned one-day strike. They were met with cheers as they marched through the streets of Manhattan, carrying signs demanding an eight-hour workday and a ban on the use of prison labor that substituted the virtual slavery of inmates for paying workers a fair wage.
While Labor Day was officially recognized in New York and a handful of other states early on, the question of it becoming a federal holiday remained up in the air.
Then in the summer of 1894, President Grover Cleveland officially signed the observation of Labor Day into law. Many historians now see this move as a concession on the part of President Cleveland. The country was in a state of crisis after the Pullman Strike, during which crowds of protesters were met with live fire from authorities provoking mass public outcry.
Suffice to say that the debt our country owes organized labor is incalculable.
We need strong unions for our communities and our very democracy to not only survive but thrive. As legendary labor leader Bill Haywood said, “Five separate fingers on a hand are isolated and weak, but together as a fist they are strong and powerful.”
So, from the folks who brought you Labor Day and the weekend (organized labor)… HAPPY LABOR DAY WEEKEND!