September 3, 2014 at 1:00 am


Why Labor Day still matters

The Labor Day Parade is a longstanding tradition in Detroit. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)

Labor Day is more than the unofficial end of summer. It’s more than a day of cookouts, dips in the swimming pool or an extended weekend trip to a cottage up north.

While those are all enjoyable components of Labor Day, the true purpose of the first Monday in September should never be lost on us. Labor Day is a time to acknowledge and celebrate the men and women that make up the American labor workforce—the greatest, most productive and most ingenious workforce the world has ever known.

Recognizing the achievements and necessity of American labor is as critical today as it’s ever been, as labor is under attack in this country. Politicians have put organized labor it their crosshairs. They’re fighting for legislation that is focused on limiting our reach, hindering our growth, and creating dissension. It is important, then, for us to remain unified and steadfast in our fight.

Labor Day gives us that opportunity.

I marched on Woodward during the annual Labor Day Parade with my dad, who worked at UAW Local 600. I was a young kid, barely old enough to tie my own shoes. As we made our way south on Woodward, side by side with my dad, his huge hand engulfing mine, I remember feeling such an immensely prideful vibe. It was the true essence of solidarity. Men and women from all walks of life, from every union imaginable, marching down Woodward, hand-in-hand, united in a common cause.

Those moments struck a chord in me as a child—so much so that I later took my own kid, and now my grandkids, so that they can take part in the experience. Participating in Labor Day events should remain an agenda item for us all. Our participation serves as a reminder of how organized labor persists as a key American concept of social justice, of fair and equitable compensation, and of ushering in an era when workers are treated with dignity and respect.

So in spite of the arrows being thrown our way, in spite of politicians plotting our demise, it is important that we continue to support one another, to make our collective voices heard, and to continue reaffirming our commitment to working class Americans.

Labor Day gives us that opportunity.

Jimmy Settles, vice president, UAW-Ford