Working in today’s world

By Courtney Sherwood, Columbian freelance writer



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Labor Day: The workers’ holiday

• Founder It is still disputed whether Peter J. McGuire, the leader of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, or Matthew Maguire, a machinist, first proposed the holiday.

• First Labor Day The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, with a parade, speeches and a post-parade picnic in a park with “lager beer kegs … mounted in every conceivable place,” the New York Tribune reported. The event was planned by the Central Labor Union.

• Legislation The New York legislature was the first to consider the Labor Day bill, but Oregon was the first to pass it, on Feb. 21, 1887.

• The celebration In the first proposal of the holiday, Labor Day was described as “a street parade to exhibit to the public the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”

• Labor Sunday On June 28, 1894, Congress made the first Monday in September Labor Day; in 1909, the Sunday preceding was designated as Labor Sunday, dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

Sources: U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. National Archives

© 2010 MCT

Employers — facing dwindling revenues and tight profit margins — have been cutting costs across the board. There’s less money for travel, supplies and training. As thousands in Clark County have learned first hand, there’s also less money for health insurance and salaries.

Workers are paying more for medical benefits, or losing job-based coverage altogether. State employees, teachers in some districts, Southwest Washington Medical Center staff and many manufacturing workers, meanwhile, have been forced by furloughs to make do with less pay.

At the same time, many workers’ investment accounts haven’t fully rebounded from big hits in 2008 or 2009, which forces tough choices for people near retirement age.

This year for Labor Day, we look at how these changes are playing out in Clark County, and what local workers can expect in the years ahead.