Happy Labor Day!

1942 Labor Day Parade, Detroit

So I know that the joke is always that we in the United States “celebrate” Memorial Day by grilling out, instead of honoring the dead, and, when Labor Day rolls around, instead of marching in parades and remembering the achievements and sacrifices of organized labor, we…grill out.

But, on the Labor Day question, I think we’re too hard on ourselves. I mean, a big part of the accomplishments of the labor movement in this country, and around the world, is about recognizing that people are more than just laborers–we’re moms and dads and friends and sisters and brothers and community members and citizens…and we deserve jobs that recognize those other roles and give us time and space and respect, plus the living wage and the health and safety, with which to pursue the totality of our lives.

So, today, celebrate as you will, be it with Labor Day parades, last-chance swimming parties, or your favorite grilling recipes. But, tomorrow, it’s back to work, not just on the job, but in the struggle, to advance to rights of all who work for a living and stand up for the movement that seeks to make dignity in the workplace a common part of everyone’s working life.

Here are some great organizations that are carrying that work forward, every day of the year. They deserve your support, just as much as you deserve this day off. Please leave your own suggestions for ways to honor workers and build up labor in the comments, especially those of you not in the Kansas/Missouri area.

Kansas City Worker Justice Project: I volunteer here to take intakes for workers who feel that they have been unfairly denied wages. Almost all of the stories will enrage you, but the organization has accomplished so much in terms of not only recouping lost wages for workers but also exposing abusive employers, and it’s a tremendously dedicated group of volunteers. Spending an evening at a clinic is also a good reminder that, especially in this economy, the horrible practices are being spread throughout the economy…an example of how no one is safe while anyone is threatened.

National Employment Law Project: I love NELP. I love their research, I love their emphasis on the most vulnerable workers in our economy, I love their unwavering dedication to standing on the right side of issues, I love their accessibility and responsiveness and extremely high quality work. They deserve your money, if you have some to give, and you should sign up for their action alerts to lend your voice to theirs.

Greater Kansas City Jobs with Justice: A friend of mine worked for years to start a Jobs with Justice chapter in Kansas City, and here’s why–it’s the organization with the best track record in bringing organized labor and community folks together to fight injustice. Check out their calendar of upcoming events, and try to go to one of their actions–they’re almost invariably fun.

There, now you can go back to your relaxing day. The revolution starts tomorrow.

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