Great challenges are best faced together, and we have encountered many these past few months from those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to carrier practices that place profits before safety, jeopardizing safe operations that affect the general public and our members.
This year on Labor Day, unity and solidarity is at the forefront of my mind as I am proud to have faced all of these adversities together as fraternal brothers and sisters. We are each other’s keepers.
I think about the “old heads” who take the time to teach the new hires the tricks of the trade and the traps to avoid the knowledge of which takes years of experience to acquire. Or the general or local chairperson who stands up for the member who has been unjustly charged; or just the friendly face of a union brother or sister offering a smile or a helping hand at just the right time when things are not going well.
These traits are summarized well in the overarching “I Got Your Back” campaign SMART has launched.
Members of the Transportation Division protect and support one another, consciously and unconsciously, all the time and on a daily basis. A little recognition of this goes a long way, making “I Got Your Back” a solid way to recognize and show support for those whose contributions sometimes are not given the appreciation or attention that’s so richly deserved.
In the July/August newspaper that is en route to you, General President Joseph Sellers Jr. encourages members to honor a mentor by taking a photo with a person who has served as an inspiration or a protector. If you email that along with a few words about the importance of that TD brother or sister in your career to firstname.lastname@example.org, that person can be recognized.
Truly, the strength of a union does not just come from the elected leaders. At its core, the power of a union comes from the membership and then travels to the leadership. There are only a handful of officers, yet thousands of members. The thousands, when united and energized, can do much more than what a single person can. That’s the power of a collective group. That’s the power of labor. That’s the power of a union!
Labor Day is about YOU. SMART-TD is about YOU. It will take all of us working together to overcome these obstacles we face now and those we will face in the future. However, I fear not as I have your back, and I know you have mine. Together we will face anything that comes our way … united. I am proud to serve alongside each and every one of you.
I do, however, want to take a moment and remember the fallen this Labor Day. We have lost way too many members, brothers and sisters, this past year who were unfortunately killed while performing their duties. Safety is our number one priority and as we work harder than ever toward changing the current culture, we must never lose sight of its importance. We must never forget the fact that our predecessor unions were founded on safety and we, as proud unified labor, will carry on in those same fights now more than ever.
Many of you will be working this Labor Day, and we thank you for your dedication while doing so. I will be out there proudly marching in one of the oldest Labor Day parades in the U.S., shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters of Local 195 in Galesburg, Ill. I look forward to meeting them as I have already met many of you during my recent travels. It is my goal to try attend as many events as possible in efforts to get to know as many of my fellow fraternal brothers and sisters as possible.
May God bless you and keep you safe.
Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division
After a federal injunction against the workers, Cleveland sent thousands of armed troops into Chicago to break up the strike July 3, 1894. Days later, the situation turned deadly, with more than a dozen workers killed and many other people injured. The federal Department of Labor’s official history of Labor Day leaves out the part about blood being shed.
It was an election year in 1894. Even with the establishment of the holiday, Cleveland, a longtime foe of organized labor, was not re-elected.
In the present day, 126 years later, the circumstances of this year’s Labor Day are unusual to say the least. Much like prior holidays this year, we continue to deal with the risks of a global pandemic — the events that many of our members engage in to celebrate the labor movement and to show solidarity have been restricted or outright canceled.
Please do your best to enjoy those freedoms and, if you are lucky enough to have it, a day off. Please keep your safety and health in mind, along with this:
Unions changed the fate of the American worker. At a time when workers were devalued and mistreated, they provided a brotherhood to stand against big industry. This Labor Day, let us celebrate those who fought for and who continue to fight for a better life while working hard and pursuing their American dream. It is their and our perseverance in pursuit of fair treatment and the sacrifices we, the essential American worker, make on a daily basis that have resulted in the benefits that we enjoy.
Your SMART Transportation Division wishes you and your families a safe and enjoyable Labor Day.
Be safe and thank you.
Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division
All SMART members are invited to participate in annual Labor Day parades.
On Monday, Sept. 2, in Galesburg, Ill., Transportation Division Alternate National Legislative Director-elect Jared Cassity is scheduled to be in attendance to march alongside members of TD Local 195 and all other members who attend the 127th edition of the parade, a tradition that recognizes the sacrifice and contribution that workers have made in building our nation.
“Galesburg holds the title for the second-oldest consecutive Labor Day parade in America,” said Local Chairperson Bryan Roberts (LCA 001E) of TD Local 195. “We will have a photo with everyone before the parade begins and a float available to ride in the parade.”
Roberts said participants should meet between 8 and 9 a.m. at the TD Local 195 union hall in the basement of the Bondi Building, 311 E. Main St., lower level. There is an access door off Kellogg Street as well that leads downstairs to the union hall in addition to the building’s main entrance.
Roberts said there will be a picnic with food and drink provided immediately following the parade at Lake Story, Pavilion 3, 1572 Machens Drive in Galesburg. The pavilion is immediately to the left when turning off Lake Story Road toward the Main Pavilion across from the softball fields, Roberts said. Alcohol is prohibited on site.
All members in Galesburg and the surrounding area are invited to participate.
“We hope to see everyone there,” Roberts said.
In Nebraska, food and fun are on the schedule at the membership feed 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, the night before the big parade in Omaha.
Parade T-shirts will also be distributed at the Sheet Metal Workers Hall, 3333 S. 24th St., in Omaha.
Line-up for the parade takes place at 9 a.m. the following day at the northeast corner of 17th and Mike Fahey streets. Attend the feed or contact State Legislative Director Bob Borgeson for more details on participating at email@example.com.
And members, if you attend this or any other Labor Day event, please send in your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration in the next edition of the TD News!
Watch a Labor Day message from SMART General President Joseph Sellers below:
For a video and more on the history of Labor Day, see below:
Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland signed it into law to appease angry union workers following a railroad labor strike in which President Cleveland, in a controversial move, sent in armed troops to break up the strike. More than a dozen workers were killed.
More information is available here from The History Channel or here from the U.S. Department of Labor.
SMART TD wishes all members and their families a safe and happy Labor Day!
Nebraska State Legislative Director Bob Borgeson invites TD members in his state to come out to Omaha and participate in Labor Day events Sunday and Monday.
On Sunday, Sept. 2, dinner and speakers will kick off the annual Labor Day Eve feed 5:30 p.m. at the SMART Union Hall, 3333 S. 24th St. in Omaha, where parade shirts will be distributed.
Monday will continue the two-decade-plus tradition of marching in the Omaha parade. Lineup is at 9 a.m. at a location that will be determined. The parade begins at 10 a.m. A refreshment tent, courtesy of Hunegs, LeNeave and Kvas law firm, will be available for participants at the parade’s conclusion.
If a local wishes to contribute to help offset the costs of putting on these events, please make a check out to SMART TD NSLB LO-030, Borgeson said.
For more information, email Borgeson at email@example.com.
By John Risch, National Legislative Director, SMART Transportation Division
Enjoy yourself this Labor Day weekend, provided you’re lucky enough to get the weekend off. In my 30 plus years working freight rail, I worked many a Labor Day weekend, but I am lucky to get this one off and plan to march with our Nebraska members in the Omaha Labor Day parade.
What’s Labor Day all about anyway? While it’s evolved into the last summer picnic or camping trip or a time to hit the back-to-school sales at the mall, that wasn’t the original intent of Labor Day.
Labor Day was started to honor the American worker, or as the Department of Labor states: “Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”
On Labor Day I like to reflect on the progress America’s workers have made in the past 135 years, since the first Labor Day. In 1884, there were no weekends off, overtime pay, minimum wage laws, workplace safety regulations, employer provided health insurance, pensions, paid vacations and the list goes on.
Each and every one of those gains have been made because workers – through their unions – have demanded them and won, over the objections of their employers. It was and continues to be America’s unions that have improved American workplaces.
Union density in America has dropped significantly from its high in 1954. Much of the reason is weak labor laws and fierce employer resistance to workers who try to organize. With that decline in union density, worker income has declined as well. We have all heard the adage, “The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer” which is statistically true and the primary reason is that America’s unionization rate has fallen. This gutting of America’s middle-class causes all kinds of socio-economic problems.
The fix to all of this is to fix America’s labor laws and enforcement to make it easier for workers to form unions and negotiate the fair pay and benefits they deserve.
Workers through their unions built America’s middle-class and the decline of our country’s middle-class is largely attributable to the decline in America’s union density. Improved labor laws with strong enforcement will revitalize the labor movement and help rebuild our middle class.
So as you relax this weekend, take a moment and think about what unions have done in our country to make life better for not just union members, but all who work for wages.
SMART Transportation Division wishes everyone a happy Labor Day. Read below to learn about the history of Labor Day.
Department of Labor on the history of Labor Day
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
Labor Day Legislation
Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
Founder of Labor Day
More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.
Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.
The first Labor Day
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.
In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.
A nationwide holiday
The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.
The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression.
The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.
We celebrate Labor Day to honor American workers and the role they continue to play in creating a strong and prosperous nation. Labor Day reminds us that the rights won by the labor movement benefit all workers, and calls us to keep fighting to keep the American Dream alive for every Missouri family.
Skilled workers build our homes, teach our kids, keep our streets safe, and maintain our roads and bridges. Here in Missouri, skilled union labor builds the best-selling truck in America, the Ford F-150, and the 2015 Motor Trend Truck of the Year, the Chevy Colorado. Union hands build the F/A-18, the nation’s first strike-fighter that continues to fight terror and protect our servicemen and women around the globe.
This Labor Day, we recognize the incredible achievements of North America’s working people and celebrate the men and women whose hard work make our nations prosper.
We recognize there are many who are frustrated because despite all the vital contributions we make, too many of us struggle to support our families. Working families in both the U.S. and Canada have sacrificed tremendously and are more productive than ever, yet many of our friends and neighbors are not seeing the rewards for their work.
At SMART, we are making inroads towards addressing these problems and other challenges members and those working in our industries face each and every day. We are fighting back and organizing the unorganized. We are doing this in places like Bushnell, Florida where we gained over one hundred new members last month during the course of a large scale organizing campaign. We are seeing the fruits of our labor by finding new sources and avenues for work in the deep south, like the new work opportunities throughout the Southwest and Southeast U.S. that will be secured by whoever can be first to fill the work. Your union is working aggressively to ensure those positions are filled by SMART members in order to strengthen a lasting industry relationship to ensure continuous work for all of us in the future.
In the Transportation Division, we are looking forward to a stronger, more united future. We are sharing resources and ideas, like those seen at recent workshops for local Union Leadership at the SMART TD leadership conferences. The more we share and learn from each other, the faster and more efficiently we can grow together to secure the promise of a better future.
And lastly, we are looking to kick off a new union label campaign for those of you working in the Sheet Metal Industry. Those of you who come across the SMART union label at work will be receiving important information in the mail about the campaign in the coming weeks. You will be using new technology, through your mobile phone, to help you perform these functions.
This Labor Day, let’s celebrate working families, speak out for the aggressive change we need to promote a better future, stand together in solidarity and work to ensure our union grows and prospers together, for the benefit of all our members.
This Labor Day, SMART General President Joseph Nigro will be present for the Omaha, Neb., Labor Day parade and other festivities. The SMART Transportation Division, led by Transportation Division Nebraska State Legislative Director Bob Borgeson, will also host other events at the Sheet Metal Workers Hall in Omaha Sept. 1-2.
The event kicks off with a “membership feed” Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. Members who show up will receive a T-shirt to wear for the parade. The Labor Day parade will be held Sept. 2 and line-up to walk in the parade is at 9 a.m. at 16th and Webster Streets. There will be mini-trains and a SMART TD caboose for children to ride on.
Eight Transportation Division locals and two general committees are expected to be in attendance. Members from Omaha, Lincoln, North Platte, Alliance and Scottsbluff, Neb. are expected to be represented as well as Council Bluffs, Iowa. Around 400 members from both the Transportation Division and Sheet Metal Workers are expected to be in attendance.
Members can view the UTU in the parade from the past four years by going to YouTube and searching “UTU Labor Day.”
Borgeson encourages all SMART members in the Omaha area from both the transportation and sheet metal divisions to attend. For more information, contact him at (402) 679-0872, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UTU members participated in Labor Day events and parades nationwide, demonstrating that a healthy, energized and committed labor union movement is alive and well in America.
In truth, there was not too much to celebrate.
For too many Americans, this Labor Day was just another day without a full-time job; and for millions more Americans, any celebration of Labor Day was eclipsed by concerns of wage cuts, higher health care insurance premiums, loss of health care insurance, loss of collective bargaining rights and efforts by many in Congress to weaken Social Security, Medicare and public transportation.
Labor Day is the traditional start of political campaigns, and the 2012 presidential, congressional and state legislature elections will be a referendum on the future of organized labor and retention of all organized labor has achieved for Americans.
These achievements, all at risk in today’s harsh political climate, include collective bargaining rights, a minimum wage, the right to be heard and to present workplace grievances, an end to discrimination in hiring, overtime pay, paid holidays and vacations, employer provided health care insurance, compensation for workplace injuries, and workplace health and safety regulations.
Although UTU members are mostly secure in their jobs because of outstanding representation, here is a sampling of the climate facing working families in America today:
* Fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers today belong to a labor union.
* According to a recent Gallup poll, only 52 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of labor unions – 78 percent among Democrats, but only 26 percent among Republicans.
* Across America, 14 million Americans are unemployed, nine million part-time workers cannot find full-time employment, and almost seven million Americas have given up looking for work.
* The current 9.1 percent unemployment rate does not include part-time workers seeking full-time work or those who have given up looking for work.
* Since 2008, average annual wage increases have been less than 2 percent.
* There are currently almost five unemployed workers for every job opening.
* To reduce the current 9.1 percent unemployment rate to 5 percent, the economy must create an average of 282,000 jobs per month. In August, zero new jobs were created, and the job creation rate of an average of 240,000 new jobs monthly during the boom years between 1993 and 2000 still falls short of the 282,000 target figure to reduce the current 9.1 unemployment rate to 5 percent.
* The unemployed finding new jobs generally suffer a 20 percent reduction in earnings.
We know from history that in union there is strength. As we look ahead to the 2012 elections, it is essential that all members of working families eligible to vote are registered and go to the polls on Election Day to elect labor-friendly candidates, regardless of political affiliation. Union members have one of the highest rates of participation in elections, and that enthusiasm and effort must continue.
With assistance from the UTU’s political consultant, the UTU’s national legislative office and state legislative directors, the UTU will be keeping members informed about labor-friendly political candidates.
Participation in the UTU PAC is also important in helping to elect labor-friendly candidates, as these contributions assist them in delivering their message to voters.
Being involved with your union is also essential, and this includes attending meetings of your local.
If you believe in something strong enough, you fight for it.
We can turn things around in America, but it requires solidarity to win this fight and emerge stronger than ever, so that on the Labor Days of the future, organized labor and working families all have something of substance to celebrate.