If you spend a lot of time on social media, you might have noticed some Americans have confused Labor Day with Memorial Day or even Veterans Day. Today is not about honoring veterans or the military dead, it is strictly about celebrating workers and the labor movement. I actually received a few texts yesterday and today hoping I have a great Memorial Day weekend. A bunch of dead union organizers are rolling over in their graves right about now. Anyway, let’s remember all the workers who fought for the eight-hour day and national minumum wage/overtime pay and against child labor. Their legacy lives on in murals across the country. I know some of you out there do not have the world’s greatest jobs (hey, Millennials I’m talking to you!) but if you find your job somewhat tolerable, then you have these people to thank.
This Labor Day while you’re enjoying the three-day-weekend, take a moment to celebrate the heroes of the union movement. These noteworthy people left behind a legacy that we enjoy today, from the end of child labor to the more humane treatment of farm workers.
this day in 1887, the deaf-blind Helen Keller - then aged 7 - recognised the word
‘water’. Keller was left deaf and blind from an illness when she was 19
months old, and her parents sought a tutor to help their daughter cope with her disability. The Kellers appealed to notable
figures including Alexander Graham Bell, but ultimately settled with the
young Anne Sullivan in 1887. Sullivan taught
Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, but at first Helen
could not understand that every object had a name. Her breakthrough came on
April 5th 1887, when she realised that Sullivan spelling 'w-a-t-e-r’ into
her hand and the sensation of running water on her other hand symbolised
'water’. From then on, Helen was a fast learner, leaning 30 new words
that day and going on to learn to write and speak so that, by aged 16, she
could attend school. Keller became the first deaf-blind person to earn a
Bachelor of Arts degree and went on to campaign for leftist causes,
female suffrage and pacifism. Helen Keller campaigned around the world and was
highly respected for overcoming adversity, and since her death in 1968 has continued to be a symbol of hope and courage.
I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten–a thrill of
returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to
me…That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it
free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away” - Helen Keller on her 1887 breakthrough
As we celebrate Earth Day today, we are reminded of a powerful reason to buy American: the out-of-control pollution in China.
It’s not only the cheap, non-union labor in China that is drawing manufacturers to the country. It’s also the lack of environmental protection standards that much of the developed world has set for companies. When a business can destroy the air, land, and water in pursuit of profit, then we all suffer in the long run. Not to mention that it is a completely unsustainable business model.
Seattle will raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour over the coming years under a deal brokered by Mayor Ed Murray and blessed by labor and business groups alike, city leaders announced Thursday afternoon.
The new pay floor will phase in at different speeds for businesses of different sizes, but all employers will have to meet the $15 minimum wage by the end of the decade. Businesses with more than 500 employees nationwide will have a three-year phase-in period, while smaller employers get five years to ratchet up their payscales.
After reaching $15 an hour, the city’s minimum wage will automatically climb by 2.4 percent each year regardless of the rate of inflation. Even among states with relatively strong minimum wage laws, automatic increases are uncommon. Thursday’s deal will make Seattle the national leader on municipal minimum wage laws. Washington currently has the highest pay floor of any state at $9.32 per hour.
The deal was a long time coming, with Murray first indicating he wanted to establish a $15 floor back in September during the mayoral campaign. Murray created the 24-member advisory group that crafted the compromise package back in December, and the group of local business owners, restaurateurs, and labor leaders has been grinding toward an agreement for the past four months.
Approval from restaurant owners is especially noteworthy given the deal’s provisions for tipped workers. Tips can only be counted toward worker minimum pay for the next five years. After that, the separate minimum hourly pay rates for tipped and non-tipped workers will disappear, and all employees citywide will have to be paid $15 hourly or more.
An activist coalition called 15 Now led by the lone socialist member of the City Council,Kshama Sawant, has pledged to put an immediate wage hike before city voters in November if the deal falls short of the group’s goals. Another coalition, 15 For Seattle, issued a press release Thursday saying that “many of the coalitions 100+ progressive members have already endorsed” the deal but that others “are taking the Mayor’s proposal back to their organizations for review and approval.” Sawant’s ballot initiative would let employers with fewer than 250 workers phase in higher wages over three years but impose the $15 rate immediately for larger businesses.
Sawant is one of two members of the working group who is opposing the deal announced Thursday, according to a source close to the negotiations. The other is Craig Dawson, the owner of a payments processing company called Retail Lockbox. The head of the city’s Chamber of Commerce is abstaining. But the 21 votes in favor include representatives from two separate chapters of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) chapter, and the MLK Labor Council, as well as local hotel owners, restaurant owners, a pair of Councilmen, and the venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who has made a name for himself in recent years as a wealthy champion of economic policies that focus on the middle class rather than on business owners and the wealthy.
(Photo Credit: Presente)
Editors Note: While I see this as progress for Seattle’s poor – albeit reformist in nature being that we still are beholden to a wage-slavery system – because it will put food on people’s tables and roofs over their heads, I am conflicted about what this sort of platform says about socialist policies moving forward. Sawant opposes this measure, so I am curious to see what her next move will be. “Better” capitalism cannot be our end-goal.
Please fire me. My married coworkers expect me to always do their work whenever they want to leave early just because they have kids. How is that my problem? WTF do I care if you have twins in a school play? What if I want to go see a play with my boyfriend?
If Mr. Kennedy does not like socialism, well we do not like imperialism! We do not like capitalism! We have as much right to protest over the existence of an imperialist-capitalist regime 90 miles from our coast as he feels he has to protect over the existence of a socialist regime 90 miles from his coast… Rights do not come from size. Right does not come from one country being bigger than another. That does not matter. We have only limited territory, a small nation, but our right is as respectable as that of any country, regardless of its size. It does not occur to us to tell the people of the United States what system of government they must have. Therefore it is absurd for Mr. Kennedy to take it into his head to tell us what kind of government he wants us to have here.
Fidel Castro. Decleration of Cuba as a Socialist Nation. May Day celebration, 1961.