Labor Day was established as a federal holiday in 1894 following a nation-wide strike by the Pullman Palace Car Company and The American Railway Union against the owners of the railroads when wages were lowered. The strike shut down rail transportation west of Chicago and ultimately involved over 250,000 workers. The holiday was designed to both appease and celebrate labor.
Merriam-Webster defines a labor union as: an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members’ interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions
Not a bad thought actually. At least not in my opinion.
Oh I know there are examples of abuse of power by unions, but when I remember the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire or the more recent mine disasters caused by owner’s failure to provide safe working conditions and failure of government regulation to do its job, I come down on the side of unions every time.
Which brings me to attempts to unionize writers and other freelancers.
I’ve been a member of the National Writers Union off and on for years. Although I’ve never used them in a negotiation or a collection or a rights action, I know that all that and more is available to me as a member. I like being backed up that way. They also offer health insurance in every state now.
The Freelancers Union is another option – addressing all freelancers, not just writers. A newer organization with different benefits it too is worth considering.
Unions can provide the ability for workers to band together and challenge the often seemingly monolithic corporations hiring them. A union can give voice to the previously voiceless.
What do you think?
No matter which side you believe in, have a great Labor Day.