Today is Labor Day, the day, according to our colleague, E.J. Dionne, “set aside to honor the American working class.” But we looked far and wide and found few events focused on the labor movement. Yes, there’s an abundance of fairs, but the lone tribute to workers that we could find is the 56th annual Newtown Labor Day parade, which is, not surprisingly, drawing politicians from across the state.
At one point in our history, the day was so much more than just the end of summer. Working families came together for picnics, local labor leaders gave speeches and, according to the U.S. Labor Department website, the day served as “a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
Today, it’s left to the pundits (see today’s editorial pages) and activists who hope to shape change at a time when the power of labor unions has all but disappeared, except in the government sector.
There are many reasons for the decline in “organized” labor, ranging from mechanization (the process of changing from working largely or exclusively by hand or with animals to doing that work with machinery), the passage of legislation that changed the balance of power between bosses and unions, and changes in demographics and culture.
That said, we should still pause today to recognize the ongoing efforts of so many whose hard work keeps our country economically strong and our cities and towns a great place to live.
And, if you’re nostalgic for “the old days,” weather forecasters say today will be a great day for a picnic!