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The Significance of Labor Day


As the first Monday in September approaches, we anticipate the arrival of Labor Day—an important occasion that pays tribute to the efforts and significant contributions of our workforce to this country. I encourage you to join me in celebrating this day by acknowledging the achievements of our local businesses, trade unions, and workers who are so vital to the strength of our families and communities. I would also like to share the following three quotes from great Americans commemorating the holiday.

“Labor Day symbolizes our determination to achieve an economic freedom for the average man which will give his political freedom reality.” -President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR was the first President to truly prioritize the common person’s well-being and recognize their importance to the prosperity of the United States. That is why, in 1933, he signed the National Labor Relations Act which enshrined, among other things, the right to collective bargaining and established a National Labor Relations Board. Later, in 1938, he signed the Fair Labor Standards Act which set the work week at 44 hours (it was amended to 40 hours per week in 1940). This legislation also set a federal minimum wage and limited child labor. Many of these labor protection laws are still with us today and have been expanded over time.

“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote is particularly poignant as we recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where 250,000 people made their voices heard and the powerful “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered. Not only was MLK an excellent orator, but he also understood that the fight for civil rights was a united call for those of all races to pursue the common goal of dignity for working people.

"The American Labor Movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for all America." -President John F. Kennedy

Although JFK greatly benefited from a privileged childhood and a Harvard education, he understood that his family was only a couple of generations removed from their humbler working-class roots. He believed the promise of America was only obtainable by them because of this country's ever-evolving commitment to providing opportunities for working men and women (his great-grandparents immigrated to the US to escape famine in Ireland). He also understood that our country only remained strong so long as we valued the efforts and contributions of labor. As an example of this, he signed an executive order in 1962 that, for the first time, enabled federal employees the right to engage in collective bargaining. Every one of these quotes illustrates the importance of the American labor movement. I hope you and your families enjoy the long weekend.


Mary-Dulany James Senator, District 34, Maryland General Assembly

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