Monday, September 6, 2021
A Message from Linda Waldbaum, Newsletter Editor
With week-one of teaching completed, this Monday, September 6th, will mark the first holiday of our school year - Labor Day. One hundred thirty-nine years ago, on September 5th, 1882, the first Labor Day was celebrated by American workers in New York City. They held a parade, marching from City Hall to Union Square. They enjoyed picnics and concerts with their family and friends. The day was celebrated in many ways similar to how we celebrate today. However, the first Labor Day participants were an organized group of ten thousand workers who decided to rally together to protest their poor working conditions. Instead of an extra day off, extending the weekend from two days to three, our first Labor Day consisted of unpaid time off from a typical six-day workweek with shifts lasting fourteen to eighteen-hours. During this time in American history, workers were unfamiliar with the concept of "leisure time".
Long work days were necessary to earn enough to buy food, clothing, and pay for rent. Instead of attending school, children worked in factories to help earn money for their family. The lack of educational opportunities for children only perpetuated the cycle of poverty in America.
As the news of New York City's Labor Day March spread, workers began to organize similar demonstrations in cities across the country. By 1894, Congress passed legislation making Labor Day a national holiday. Over the next fifty years, Labor Unions shaped what we now know as the "typical work week": 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday. In addition to raising the standard of living for all Americans, unions advocated for laws which required children to attend schools rather than work in factories. For the first time, American workers had the pleasure of time-off within their workday and workweek, thanks to the courageous initial voice of ten thousand unionists. Today, our voice has grown to millions, protecting our rights and interests in the workplace.
As you celebrate this Labor Day weekend, be proud that as an active PFT member, you are part of that collective voice. You may have plans to spend time with family and friends, perhaps have a barbeque or watch a parade. Maybe you just want to squeeze out the last good days of summer by spending time at the beach. However you choose to spend your leisure time, it is well-deserved for the hard work that you do. To my brothers and sisters, I wish you all an enjoyable and happy Labor Day.