Happy Labor Day from NPI!
Labor Day: a time to honor the millions of working people who have fought for better pay and working conditions (NPI graphic, incorporating elements from Tumisu and other contributors)

Today, our team at NPI hon­ors and thanks the mil­lions of work­ing peo­ple over the course of Amer­i­can and Cana­di­an his­to­ry whose col­lec­tive strug­gle for bet­ter pay and work­ing con­di­tions have lift­ed up fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties all over the world.

Labor Day, estab­lished in the late nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, was born out of the union move­ment. It’s a day to rec­og­nize the immense con­tri­bu­tions and sac­ri­fices of our work­ers. The hol­i­day has always been a tes­ta­ment to the endur­ing spir­it of the work­ing class, but as we approach anoth­er pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year in a chal­leng­ing and tumul­tuous era for our coun­try, it has spe­cial significance.

In the face of a rapid­ly chang­ing glob­al land­scape, the resilience and adapt­abil­i­ty of work­ing peo­ple have been test­ed like nev­er before. The last few years have wit­nessed shifts towards dig­i­ti­za­tion, remote work, and gig work. While these changes brought along numer­ous oppor­tu­ni­ties, they have also posed challenges.

For­tu­nate­ly, young work­ers are demon­strat­ing lead­er­ship in the face of these chal­lenges. They aren’t wait­ing for events to shape them. They’re step­ping up.

“A few weeks ago, I stood on the streets of New York City with work­ing actors, per­form­ers and writ­ers from SAG-AFTRA and the Writ­ers Guild of Amer­i­ca who have been on strike for months now: risk­ing their liveli­hoods to win a fair con­tract for them­selves and all who come after,” said AFL-CIO Pres­i­dent Liz Shuler in a Labor Day essay. “We chant­ed. We walked the pick­et line. But what inspired me most was when work­ing peo­ple all around us — over­whelm­ing­ly young work­ers, in their 20s and 30s — saw what was hap­pen­ing and joined in.”

“These young work­ers are com­ing into the move­ment because they know a union on the job is an act of defi­ance against the sta­tus quo,” Shuler added. “Because our agen­da is their agen­da: We deliv­er good-pay­ing, sta­ble jobs. Jobs that are safe. Jobs that do not leave you bounc­ing from gig work to gig work. And because we use our pow­er beyond the work­place: to stand up for our democ­ra­cy, pro­tect against A.I. that dehu­man­izes and degrades work, and take on the cli­mate cri­sis. Young work­ers know what all work­ers know: It’s bet­ter in a union.”

“I promised to be the most pro-union Pres­i­dent in his­to­ry, and I firm­ly believe that every work­er in Amer­i­ca should have the free and fair choice to join a union or orga­nize and bar­gain col­lec­tive­ly with their employ­er with­out coer­cion or intim­i­da­tion,” said Pres­i­dent Joe Biden in a 2023 Labor Day procla­ma­tion.

“That is because when orga­nized labor wins, our Nation wins. My Admin­is­tra­tion will con­tin­ue to sup­port and encour­age labor unions so that work­ers have a seat at the deci­sion-mak­ing table, an oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak truth to pow­er, and the sup­port to fight for the dig­ni­ty and respect they deserve.”

“On Labor Day, we stand in sol­i­dar­i­ty with all the work­ers who lift our Nation to new heights and all the labor unions who give all work­ers pow­er and voice. May we con­tin­ue work­ing to restore the Amer­i­can Dream for every per­son will­ing to work hard in our Nation by embrac­ing what has always been the foun­da­tion of our country’s suc­cess: invest­ing in Amer­i­ca and Amer­i­can workers.”

For those of us who enjoy the free­dom not to have to work today, let’s take a moment to reflect on some of the val­ues that Labor Day embodies:

  1. Respect for Every Job: From the farm­work­ers who har­vest our food to the machin­ists who build our planes and the teach­ers who edu­cate our kids, every job mat­ters, and deserves our respect and appreciation.
  2. Sol­i­dar­i­ty: Labor Day emerged from the labor union move­ments which were ground­ed in the prin­ci­ple of sol­i­dar­i­ty. In today’s frag­ment­ed world, this sense of uni­ty is more cru­cial than ever. It reminds us that when we stand togeth­er, our col­lec­tive strength can move mountains.
  3. Adapt­abil­i­ty: If there’s one thing the past few years have taught us, it’s the impor­tance of adapt­abil­i­ty. The world changes, indus­tries evolve, and new chal­lenges arise. Our work­ers’ will­ing­ness to adapt and inno­vate is cru­cial to keep­ing the Unit­ed States and Cana­da eco­nom­i­cal­ly competitive.
  4. Rest and Bal­ance: While hard work is com­mend­able, it’s equal­ly essen­tial to rec­og­nize the impor­tance of self-care, relax­ation, and spend­ing time with fam­i­ly and friends. Pro­duc­tive work keeps the econ­o­my hum­ming, but all of us deserve rest and reju­ve­na­tion. It’s a right that past work­ers have sac­ri­ficed a lot to estab­lish and expand. At NPI, we believe that all work­ers should have paid med­ical leave, paid fam­i­ly leave, and paid vaca­tion leave.

With our nation approach­ing yet anoth­er mon­u­men­tal­ly con­se­quen­tial elec­tion, it’s essen­tial to remem­ber the lessons from our past. The his­to­ry of Labor Day is replete with sto­ries of strug­gle, resilience, and tri­umph. As we face new chal­lenges, these sto­ries serve as a bea­con, guid­ing us towards a brighter future.

So, this Labor Day, as you bite into that burg­er or enjoy a game with your fam­i­ly, take a moment to salute Amer­i­can and Cana­di­an work­ers. Their ded­i­ca­tion, hard work, and spir­it have built North Amer­i­ca into what it is today.

Again, Hap­py Labor Day!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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