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A Tribute to the Dedicated Worker on Labor Day

Labor Day was once the most blatantly political US holiday — created by the trade-union movement to celebrate the right of working people to bargain collectively and to stage strikes to press their demands.

The Post was an early and vigorous supporter of the movement. As early as 1836, editor William Cullen Bryant wrote: “Strike the right of associating for the sale of labor from the privileges of a freeman, and you may as well at once bind him to a master.”

New York hosted the nation’s first Labor Day parade when 10,000 workers marched from City Hall to Union Square.

As the movement grew, so did the parades and celebrations.

But times have changed. Today, Labor Day is largely an occasion time for sales, end-of-summer cookouts and back-to-school preparations. Why? Because the movement has become as irrelevant to most Americans as the medieval guilds that preceded it — and all too often a protector of privileges rather than a force for the oppressed..

In 1954, more than one in three US workers was a union member. Now it’s just 6 percent of private-sector workers — but, in a huge shift, over a third of public-sector ones.

Indeed, half America’s 14.3 million union members today work for government rather than the private sector, and that includes a lot of “quasi-public” jobs in sectors like health care.

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