US Honors Its Workers on Labor Day Holiday
Ken Bredemeier / VOA News
The United States honored its nearly 160 million workers Monday, the annual Labor Day celebration that unofficially marks the end of summer and gives families a last chance for get-togethers with friends and relatives the day before the school year starts in some communities if it hasn’t already begun.
The national holiday, officially proclaimed in 1894, was born as a tribute to American workers who often faced harsh conditions in the late 19th century – 12-hour days, seven days a week, with low pay for physically demanding work. Now, backyard barbecues, a few parades and a day of relaxation mark the holiday.
While labor disputes over working conditions and pay are still common in the U.S., such as current labor negotiations over expiring contracts for 146,000 auto workers, many labor conflicts have evolved into disputes that fit the times, and they are not just about workers’ pay.
Some businesses are feuding with their white-collar employees over whether they should be required to return full-time or at least part-time to their workplaces after they worked almost entirely from home for more than three years because of the coronavirus pandemic. Other disputes have emerged over the budding use of artificial intelligence, how it affects the work product and whether employees might lose their jobs because of the use of it.
The unionized U.S. workforce has been declining for years, but still totals more than 14 million workers. Democrats rely on it for steady political support in elections, although a segment of more conservative workers in some factory towns has switched political allegiances to Republicans even as their union leaders still mostly support Democratic politicians.