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Labor Unions and Labor Day

Child labor from US National Archives, circa 1908

Child labor from US National Archives, circa 1908

New York Time reporter Nicholas Kristof has had a change of heart about labor unions and wrote about it on February 19, 2015. Previously he “disdained unions as bringing corruption, nepotism and rigid work rules to the labor market, impeding the economic growth that ultimately makes a country strong. I was wrong.”

He says that “most studies suggest that about one-fifth of the increase in economic inequality in America among men in recent decades is the result of the decline in unions. It may be more: A study in the American Sociological Review, using the broadest methodology, estimates that the decline of unions may account for one-third of the rise of inequality among men.”

Joseph E. Stiglitz’s book The Price of Inequality asserts that “excessive inequality amounts to sand in the gears of capitalism, creating volatility, fueling crises, undermining productivity and retarding growth.”

Labor Day was established in 1894 by Congress to highlight the social and economic achievements of American workers. The first holiday was celebrated two years earlier, on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, with a parade of unions and a massive picnic. Many abuses such as child labor were lessened and rights we enjoy today are because of the reform pressure of labor unions.

Enjoy a day of leisure from your labor!