Labor Day recognizes the contributions and achievements of working people. The holiday originated during a dark time for America’s labor movement; during the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s, American workers organized to fight for fair wages and humane working conditions. They were met by federal troops and violent repression. To make amends, Congress made Labor Day a national holiday in 1894.
Working people were key to our country’s development and labor unions gave those workers a voice. It was the power of organized labor that brought us the 40-hour work week, lunch breaks, safer working conditions, and a minimum wage. Strong unions continue to fight for workers’ rights, from paid leave to PPE.
The pandemic has highlighted the value and sacrifices of essential workers across our Commonwealth. Postal workers, teachers, health care providers, construction and road workers, and more: Their work – always vital – is at the forefront now. We should spend extra time today reflecting on the risks that our frontline workers have taken on and the role of unions in fighting for fair compensation and a safer Virginia for all of us.
We have much further to go. Today we celebrate working Virginians and the accomplishments of the labor movement. Today, too, we can recommit to expanding workers’ rights and moving towards a Virginia that works for everyone.