Labor Day, which is Monday, is the national holiday when we celebrate the contributions of labor.
And labor is defined as the expenditure of physical or mental effort, especially when difficult or compulsory. While my experience is learning golf or oil painting can be “difficult,” I am not certain I would classify them as “labor.”
However, my experience as a supporting spouse definitely agrees with the secondary definition, having to do with childbirth, as “labor” — sometimes hard labor — that only a mother would voluntarily undergo more than once.
The Labor Day celebrations began with the first parade in the U.S. Sept. 5, 1882, when an estimated 10,000 union employees paraded in New York City.
While New York state was debating whether to declare it a holiday, Oregon, on Feb. 21, 1887, declared Labor Day a state holiday. By 1894, 23 states had adopted the holiday.
1894 began with a patent awarded for motion picture films, the Stanley Cup playoffs starting and the first motion picture house opening in New York City with a device identified as being used for “peep shows” (not that I know what that means) before the April bituminous coal miners’ strike that closed mines in the Midwest and caused riots across the U.S.
On May 11, 1894, about 4,000 Pullman Palace Car Co. employees started the “wildcat strike of Illinois.” Wildcat strikes, aka “quickie” strikes or “outlaw” strikes, are strikes that are not supported by the union leadership and tend to be violent, as this one was.
While all strikes are different, my experience is that wildcat strikes occur when the workers lose confidence in their union leaders.
For example, the potential for such a strike occurred in one of my negotiations when our offer to the union bargaining committee attempted to correct our paying the junior employees too little and senior ones too much. Had the junior employees learned that the bargaining committee, composed exclusively of senior employees, refused to even discuss more pay for the junior workers, it could have created the potential for a wildcat strike. Fortunately, we were able to avoid a strike while achieving a partial adjustment of the imbalances.
The year 1913 began with a flourish when on Feb. 3, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which empowered the government to collect an income tax, passed. A month later, on March 3, there was a Woman’s Suffrage Parade in D.C., and the next day, just blocks away, the U,S, Department of Labor was formed. A coincidence?
World War I was followed by the flu pandemic that began in 1918 and lasted into 1920 when the 18th Amendment, which banned the sale of intoxicating liquors, was passed and ushered in massive disobedience that all too frequently led to crime.
The Roaring Twenties ended with the 1929 stock market crash that so crippled the stock market that investors did not recover their investments until 1953.
During the ensuing Great Depression, in 1933, the 21st Amendment was passed, which reversed the prohibition established by the 18th Amendment.
Also in 1933, as discussed in my piece “A Government Within a Government” in the Aug. 14 edition of the News Press, President Franklin Roosevelt sponsored the Securities Exchange Act to protect investors. However, it took until 1938 to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act, sometimes referred to as the “Wage and Hour” law.
This act required a maximum work week of 44 hours, or 8.8 hours a day, overtime at time and a half for all hours above those hours, and safety for minors. Incidentally, this act defined “working hours” as when an employer “suffers or permits” a person to work. Including “permits” led to my client having to pay for an employee who, while not scheduled, chose to go to the facility. Imagine trying to control this for employees working remotely? At home?
In 1940, the hours per week before overtime were reduced to 40 hours a week and 8 hours a day, which makes designing a program for 12 hour shifts tricky.
In 1968, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to make them all three-day weekends.
From 1974 — when my legal career began with the responsibility for employment issues for Gulf Oil Co. in the 20 northeastern states — to 2019, the percentage of employees in the manufacturing sector decreased from 30.2% to 12.6%.
However, since President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10988, permitting government employees to join unions, their numbers have greatly expanded.
A major difference in collective bargaining is the unions in the public sector are not restricted to enabling their employer to remain economically competitive. For example, when I was offered the position of managing the collective bargaining for the Administration of the Courts for California, one of my potential staff members asked: How would you convince a courtroom guard to accept your wage offer when he knows that you have no leverage since there is no restriction on being economically competitive, he cannot be replaced, and his job cannot be moved, or eliminated? Fortunately for my blood pressure, California Gov. Gray Davis would not agree to my terms.
For Labor Day 2022, it is estimated that 53% of the 158 million employed in the U.S., will travel. I will not join this group, but I may participate in the end of the “hot dog” season. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council — yes, there really is one — projects that from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans will have consumed 7 billion hot dogs.
With that, I wish each of you: Happy Labor Day 2022!
Brent E. Zepke is an attorney, arbitrator and author who lives in Santa Barbara. His website is OneheartTwoLivescom.wordpress.com. Formerly, he taught law and business at six universities and numerous professional conferences. He is the author of six books: “One Heart-Two Lives,” “Legal Guide to Human Resources,” “Business Statistics,” “Labor Law,” “Products and the Consumer” and “Law for Non-Lawyers.”