Unions receive well-deserved Labor Day acclaim



By Cynthia Price

Labor Day brings a welcome tribute to the unions whose work through history gave workers an awful lot of what they take for granted today.

It was union members who fought, and occasionally even gave their lives, so that the modern-day workforce could have reasonable working hours and safe conditions. Unions gained health benefits, retirement income, and better pay for workers who would otherwise be at the mercy of the people who profited from their toil. Unions also put an end to child labor.

The 40-hour work week was prompted by unionists sick (literally) of working 10-to-16-hour days and often at least six-day weeks. The first major supporter of a five-day work week was Henry Ford, who is alleged not to have acted from compassion but because he wanted to be sure workers had the time to go shopping. In 1940 it was made the law of the land.

But Labor Day has been around longer than that, with New York City hosting the first in 1882. By 1894, Congress established it as a national holiday.

Muskegon has always loved its labor unions, and this year’s had a very good audience turnout to reflect the excellent participation of unions and other groups. Of course, marchers throwing out candy has also always been a draw, and this year there was definitely enough to last until Halloween.