On Sept. 5, 1882, some 10,000 workers paraded in New York City, organized by the Knights of Labor. That unpaid day off was the start of what later became Labor Day.
Today, 104 years later, the labor movement has joined with millions of immigrant workers and social justice advocates in a united struggle for labor and human rights. Undaunted by the anti-worker Bush administration and its right-wing enforcers, and by divide-and-conquer corporate attacks, the growing unity of today’s broad labor-led movement is bringing together U.S.-born and immigrant, documented and undocumented, young and old, men and women of all colors and ethnicities.
Two recent events tell the story.
At a press conference in Chicago last week, Pastor Albert D. Tyson III, an African American who is president of Clergy Speaks Interdenominational, made it clear that immigrant workers and the Black community share much in common. Tyson was one of a group of African American clergy who came to support immigrant activist Elvira Arellano who is fighting deportation to Mexico in order to remain with her young son, a U.S. citizen.
“We need to unite in the commonality of struggle so our people will have victory,” Tyson declared.
Last month, the AFL-CIO announced a new “watershed” partnership with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network — linking 140 immigrant worker centers around the country with the power of organized labor to strengthen workplace rights for all workers.
As we celebrate these signs of a growing, energized and united working class and people’s movement, we know that the struggles for workers’ rights, for equality, for justice for immigrant workers, for a decent, humane society, will not be won easily. But as the long and proud history of workers’ struggles tells us, there is strength and power in unity. We look forward to new holidays to celebrate the victories to come.