The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
But despite that right of assembly, the United States is, today, less free for labor than 41 other nations —as rated by Freedom House— in part, because U.S. employers can, with relative impunity, fire or demote employees for attempting to assemble into a union. Although such 'freedom of association' is not explicitly protected in the First Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in many cases that the Constitution does do so implicitly.
From authors Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit:
Labor must make clear, in word and deed, that it is part of a broader movement for social justice and against concentrated wealth and power, not just a special interest concerned only with its membership.
When union wages increase, nonunion employers respond by raising pay, too, to attract workers. And each percentage-point decline in the U.S. unionization rate has been accompanied by a comparable fall in the proportion of income going to the middle class.
Unions need to show that they are a vehicle for vindicating the individual rights that Americans hold dear against the power of large employers and the government. Just as Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for individual civil rights as a fulfillment of the Declaration of Independence’s promise of equal opportunity, so the labor movement should fight for individuals’ First Amendment right to engage in the freedom of association, including the right to form a union. [emphasis mine]
Federally recognized in 1894, Labor Day is an American holiday, observed on the first Monday in September, that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. Today, let's honor them by pledging to work toward a better Labor Day.
- Read this marvelous rant from Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent Senator from Vermont: Labor Day, 2012. "The American people are angry."
- I would be sorely remiss, if, on Labor Day, I failed to thank the brewers —who make our daily beer, so refreshing after an honest day's work. So ... Thank you!