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Will Labor Unions Survive?19:24
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Alba Lopez, left, and Fabia Suarez, center, both of Boston, react to a speaker during a rally in the East Boston neighborhood of Boston, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. The rally, held in advance of a possible strike, was organized by the Service Employees International Union that represents 14,000 New England janitors. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Alba Lopez, left, and Fabia Suarez, center, both of Boston, react to a speaker during a rally in the East Boston neighborhood of Boston, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. The rally, held in advance of a possible strike, was organized by the Service Employees International Union that represents 14,000 New England janitors. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

And maybe you are, too.. because today is Labor Day, the federal holiday in honor of working men and women.

It wasn't always so. Labor Day was created in 1894, in the wake a nationwide railroad strike that was a major tipping point in the American labor movement.

The strike paralyzed the country. At the time, railroads were the country's most important economic and communications arteries. Riots broke out. 30 people were killed. The federal government went to court to get trains moving again.

In an effort to placate unions, President Grover Cleveland championed a bill to create Labor Day. The bill made its way through congress and to the President's desk in a mere six days.

Such was the power of unions in the 1890s. By the mid 1950s, 35 percent of the American workforce was unionized.

But today, that number has dropped to 10 percent, the lowest rate of union membership since 1916...which leads many to believe that American unions are dying.

Guests

Professor Thomas Kochan, Co-Director of the Institute of Work and Employment Research at MIT's Sloan School of Management.

Brian Lang, President of Unite Here!, the hospitality workers union.

This segment aired on September 2, 2013.

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