Celebrating the power of the workers
Happy Labor Day from the members of Carpenters Local 351! This is labor’s day to celebrate the achievements of the workers and there has been a bit of a turning point for workers in America.
Often we use this article to talk about the history of labor and the struggles the workers go through in the fight for fair wages and benefits. The corona virus has had an interesting role to play in this struggle. Not only did we quickly become aware of just how essential some employees are, they were often the ones people wouldn’t have deemed essential in January of 2020.
How fast we came to realize that without factory workers, our food supplies could dwindle, our vehicle production could wind to a halt, a halt that still affects us today. Without workers at the grocery store, supplies would dwindle quickly. Without construction workers, essential projects sit vacant and unbuilt, roads sit in disrepair and aren’t completed.
Even 15 months later we’re still feeling the effect of the workers power. Restaurants and fast food places can’t find enough help so they’re cutting operating hours or offering higher wages. Factories are starting people at record high wages. When labor is withheld, or there isn’t enough, wages rise.
This is the lesson labor learned in the late 1800’s. This year the Carpenters Union turns 140 years old. In 1881, 36 carpenter delegates gathered in Philadelphia from across the country and voted to form the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, an International union to unite all organized carpenters under one banner. A few years later in 1886, they helped lead the strike for the 8 hour work day and on May 1, 1886, 190,000 workers used the power of the strike to demand the 8 hour work day as a standard. A standard that still stands today.
When workers stand together we can demand a fair share of the profit our labor produces. As we watch billionaires race for the stars, many are just trying to feed their family and keep a roof over their head. Many have been hurt by the pandemic and, unfortunately, more pain may be on the horizon. Workers need to remember the power they have and were shown when work stopped for 6 weeks in early 2020. How fast certain factions pushed for workers to get back to work. They recognized the power workers sitting idle had, and they feared it.
They’re right to fear an organized workforce, as there is no power stronger. As our founder once said, “In the present age there is no hope for the working man outside of organization.”
—Peter J. McGuire
Happy Labor Day!