OUR POSITION: Labor Day was a day to celebrate the American worker.

If you enjoyed a day off Monday, thank the American workers and the labor unions. You can also thank them for an eight-hour day, any health or other benefits you may or may not receive and vacations with pay.

Those are some of the benefits workers and unions have fought for since the late 19th Century.

According to Nationaltoday.com there is some disagreement about how Labor Day came to be.

Some give credit to the Knights of Labor, an important American labor organization in 1882. The Knights had a public parade in New York City featuring members of other labor unions, including the Central Labor Union of New York. Matthew Maguire, secretary of the CLU, proposed a national holiday for the first Monday of each September to mark the success of that day’s events.

Others credit the founding of Labor Day to Peter J. McGuire, vice president of the American Federation of Labor. In the spring of 1882 he proposed a holiday for the “laboring classes” to the CLU which should begin with a parade and fundraiser for local unions. He suggested the first Monday in September because the weather was usually good and the day falls between July 4 and Thanksgiving.

It became an official U.S. holiday in 1894.

Americans have reason to thank the unions and early laborers. Some will criticize unions for heavy-handed politics or accuse them of taking advantage of workers. But there is no doubt workers in the U.S. have benefited from their efforts.

Unions do not have the sway today they did 20 or 30 years ago. You could use that as a reason that American workers are no longer leading the parade.

While U.S. workers are still the best paid in the world in most cases, there are issues — some related to COVID-19, others not. The number of American workers with health insurance has dwindled the past several years as employers have trimmed benefits. Other employers, especially restaurant and retail chains, typically hire more workers and offer them less than full-time hours to limit any benefits.

The cost of living — especially housing — is taking its toll on many of America’s workers today.

Denise Candea wrote about the struggles of one particular local woman, a single mother of three who struggles to pay her bills and clothe and feed her children.

The 32-year-old cashier works 30 hours a week earning $9.87 an hour. She had a second job as a server bringing in an additional $100 or so a week until the pandemic cost her that job. She would work more but nights and weekend are difficult since she has no money for child care left from her $1,200-a-month income.

She pays $900 a month for rent. She doesn’t go to the doctor or dentist because she doesn’t work enough to get benefits and Florida lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Hers is not necessarily the American dream.

We have much to be thankful for in America. There are good jobs. Most wages are adequate and for many who have a good education and work hard the reward has been great.

Too many people are getting left behind, however.

Let’s celebrate Labor Day and think about how to make life better for all workers.

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