The Facade That Is Labor Day: Labor Unions Have Tried to Convince the Public That Labor Day Is Meant to Celebrate the Accomplishments of Labor Unions. but If That Were True, There Wouldn't Be Much to Cheer

By Farmer, Brian | The New American, September 3, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Facade That Is Labor Day: Labor Unions Have Tried to Convince the Public That Labor Day Is Meant to Celebrate the Accomplishments of Labor Unions. but If That Were True, There Wouldn't Be Much to Cheer


Farmer, Brian, The New American


Labor Day is a federal holiday falling on the first Monday in September and is meant to pay tribute to the contributions of American workers who have promoted the economic strength and prosperity of our nation. Not surprisingly, it was various leaders of the U.S. labor union movement who have been given credit for proposing and urging celebrations on a day devoted to honoring American workers, which initially took place primarily in the industrial centers of the country. With the passage of time, the celebrations grew in number and size, to the point that local governments started to take notice and get in on the act. Eventually, state and national politicians began to recognize the political significance of Labor Day, as it provided them the opportunity to make speeches at organized events, to create a higher profile before the public, etc., and passed legislation formally recognizing Labor Day as an important holiday.

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Perks and Quirks of Unions

There appears to be a certain amount of irony in the celebration of Labor Day because, while it is meant to pay homage to all workers, the labor union movement behaves as though it is celebrating Labor Union Day. It seems particularly odd when one keeps in mind that unionized workers have never made up a majority of the nation's workforce. In fact, at its zenith during the 1950s, the labor union movement was able to organize no more than approximately 40 percent of the workforce. That figure has now fallen to around 12 percent, and the only reason it is that high is due to the fact that many government workers have joined labor unions over the past half a century. That raises an obvious question: If the labor union movement exists to promote the welfare of all workers, as labor union leaders and their minions would have us believe, then why has membership in labor unions dropped so precipitously over the past several decades? This is particularly puzzling, when one considers all of the special privileges that the labor union movement enjoys. The National Right to Work Committee has put together a list of what it views as the top 10 most egregious powers and exploitative privileges that have been granted to labor unions by federal politicians, bureaucrats, and judges:

1. The exemption from prosecution for labor union violence. In 1946, Congress passed the Hobbs Act, aimed at suppressing a wide range of union violence. It included a provision that defined criminal extortion as "the obtaining of property ... by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence or fear." In using the word "wrongful," Congress apparently did not anticipate the unintended consequences that would result, when the legislation was eventually challenged in the courts. Using logic that would strain the credulity of a rational person, the courts argued that, if certain acts of violence were wrongful, then that would imply that there must be some acts of violence that were not wrongful. As a result, in the 1973 case of United States v. Enmons, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that three electrical union members indicted for sabotaging an electricity substation and perpetrating other violence in Louisiana had not done anything that could be deemed illegal, because they were actually pursuing " legitimate" union objectives, that is, wage and benefit increases and improved working conditions.

2. The exemption from anti-monopoly laws. The Sherman Anti-trust Act of 1890 prohibited "combinations or conspiracies" whose objective was to restrain or obstruct interstate commerce, and the courts interpreted that as applying to labor unions, as well as trusts. As one could easily imagine, labor union leaders were not at all happy about those developments and responded by launching a political campaign to get the antitrust laws changed so as not to apply to labor unions. The campaign resulted in the passage of the Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914. …

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The Facade That Is Labor Day: Labor Unions Have Tried to Convince the Public That Labor Day Is Meant to Celebrate the Accomplishments of Labor Unions. but If That Were True, There Wouldn't Be Much to Cheer
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