Born in September in Cincinnati, in 1857, William Howard Taft, was elected the 27th President of the United States (1909–1913) and became the 5th of seven presidents hailing from Ohio. On March 4, 1913, the most portly American to be elected president so far, made a historic commitment to workers when he signed legislation creating the U.S. Department of Labor that gave workers, for the first time, a seat in the President's Cabinet.
While Taft created a government department dedicated to workers, Labor Day itself was proclaimed a federal holiday by President Grover Cleveland, another Ohio native, in 1894, an election year. Chester Arthur, of New York, also used September 5, 1882 for what is thought to be the first Labor Day event. Reports are that thousands of working Americans gathered to march in a New York City parade.
In the 131 years since, President Barack Obama said in his 2013 Labor Day announcement, "America has called on its workers time and again "to raise and connect our cities; to feed, heal, and educate our Nation; to forge the latest technological revolution."
On Labor Day, he said, "we celebrate these enduring contributions and honor all the men and women who make up the world's greatest workforce.America is what it is today because workers began to organize -- to demand fair pay, decent hours, safe working conditions, and the dignity of a secure retirement."
President Obama's selection for Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez, issued the following statement to commemorate Labor Day on Monday, Sept. 2nd.
"On Labor Day, we pay tribute and say thanks to the people who build our nation's strength, character and prosperity. American workers are the most industrious, the most capable and the most diligent in the world," Perez, who succeeded Hilda Solis, following her resignation after four years with President Obama during his first term that started in 2009.
"Our grit and determination has been put to the test recently, as we've endured the most crippling recession in 80 years. But now we are turning the corner. In the past 41 months, we've created 7.3 million jobs. The auto industry, which was flat on its back a few years ago, is surging again. Unemployment is at its lowest level since 2008. And the economy continues to grow as we provide affordable health care for every American. But there's no question we can and must do more," Sec. Perez said in prepared remarks.
"Our common agenda must be jobs, jobs, jobs. Working together, we can unleash the economy's full potential, secure a better bargain for the middle class and expand opportunities for everyone."
Ohio Governor John R. Kasich, a Republican like W.H Taft, issued a proclamation in honor of Labor Day. "We owe a debt of gratitude to previous generations of Ohioans who worked with an unwavering commitment to create prosperity and stability, and whose hard work sustained our state in times of economic uncertainty and hardship. We, in turn, owe it to future generations of Ohioans to foster a state where hard work is rewarded and in which they and their families can succeed."
"I don't know that there's a man or woman in our history who's done more for human rights, with less recognition, than Bayard Rustin," Secretary Perez said at an emotional and long overdue tribute to the civil rights leader held earlier this week at Washington's historic Lincoln Theater. Bayard Rustin is perhaps our most overlooked American hero, he declared, as he thanked President Obama for deciding to posthumously award Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sec. Perez followed suit by formally inducting Rustin into the Labor Department's Hall of Honor.
Rustin was the driving force behind the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which had its 50th year celebration last week in Washington, when about 100,000 people gathered on the National Mall along the Reflecting Pond leading to the Lincoln Memorial. The main goal of the 1963 March on Washington was not to eliminate racial discrimination, although that was high on the list of wrongs to right. And even though Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech has become the historical remembrance of that march, the event contained a distinctive economic message, including a call for a higher minimum wage. The Organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom also demanded a public works program and job training, and an end to discrimination in hiring, among other things.
The Federal Minimum Wage is currently pegged at $7.25 per hour. It applies to workers covered by the FLSA, effective as of July 24, 2009. Overtime Pay is set at not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay and is required after 40 hours of work in a workweek. Certain exemptions apply to specific types of businesses or specific types of work.
Four years have passed since the last increase in the federal minimum wage, to $7.25 per hour, or $15,000 per year for full-time work. There are now calls and protests to raise the minimum wage higher, to $10-hour as California U.S. Senator Barbra Boxer has called for or higher to $15-hour or more as others want.
In his statement for Labor Day, President Obama said, "The rights and benefits Americans too often take for granted today, from the 40-hour work week and a minimum wage to safety standards, workers' compensation, and health insurance ... These basic protections allowed the middle class to flourish."
"In the years to come, I will continue to support collective bargaining rights that strengthen the middle class and give voice to workers across our Nation," Obama said, adding, "And I will keep pushing for a higher minimum wage—because in America, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty. Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American worker, we have cleared away the rubble of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Now is the time to reward that hard work. Today, as America celebrates working people everywhere, we unite behind good jobs in growing industries, and we strengthen our resolve to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation."
When workers are the topic of discussion, talk of unions is not far behind. Even though the percent of American workers who work for unions have dropped to historic levels, rights and benefits workers in the public and private sector have now are only possible due to the hard, dangerous and sometimes fatal work union and union members have engaged in over the last one-hundred years or more.
Memory lane for workers' rights and benefits:
Reasons to thank a workers union
- All Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks
- Paid Vacation
- Family Medical Leave Act
- Sick Leave
- Social Security
- Minimum Wage
- Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
- 8-Hour Work Day
- Overtime Pay
- Child Labor Laws
- Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
- 40 Hour Work Week
- Worker's Compensation (Worker's Comp)
- Unemployment Insurance
- Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations
- Employer Health Care Insurance
- Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees
- Wrongful Termination Laws
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
- Whistleblower Protection Laws
- Employee Polygraph Protect Act (Prohibits Employer from using a lie detector test on an employee)
- Veteran's Employment and Training Services (VETS)
- Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)
- Sexual Harassment Laws
- Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Holiday Pay
- Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance
- Privacy Rights
- Pregnancy and Parental Leave
- Military Leave
- The Right to Strike
- Public Education for Children
- Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
- Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States
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