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Why You Should Give Thanks to the Labor Movement

The information below has been borrowed (and altered in some places) from an article by Donna Ballman , “Give Thanks To The Labor Movement”, Posted Oct 7th 2011 @ 8:35AM

A lot of things have changed for workers in the past century and that is thanks to the Labor Movement. Not so long ago, things were much different for workers in North America.  One story that sticks out was Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a sweatshop. Women and children, mostly immigrants, worked for terrible wages in terrible conditions. When a fire broke out, they couldn’t escape because the employer had locked them in. The employer said it was to stop theft, but many others say it was to keep the workers from leaving and taking breaks. The fire escapes had collapsed and the elevators stopped working in the 10-story building. One hundred forty six workers died that day in 1911, many as young as 14.

Before the labor movement, it wasn’t uncommon for sweatshops to engage in human trafficking. Workers in coal mines, factories, farms and many other workplaces were sometimes forced to work while getting further and further in debt. Many workers were paid in company “scrip” that they could use only at the company store. They could never save for their families and never hope for a better life. Children had to work starting very young, to help support their families, with no opportunity to go to school.

The labor movement created much needed change for workers.  It is important to remember that, without unions, workers would not have these benefits we take for granted:

  • Minimum wage
  • Overtime pay
  • Paid vacation
  • Sick days
  • Safety standards/OSHA
  • Child labor laws
  • Weekends
  • 40-hour work week
  • Health benefits
  • Unemployment compensation

You might be thinking to yourself, “Wow, my job doesn’t look so bad after all”. Well, you can thank union leaders for the rights that many of us take for granted. These rights were hard won, and they can be taken away.  It is important for unions to remain strong and defend those rights, or risk losing them and the benefits that we all enjoy and deserve.

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