Labor Day and What Non-profits Can Learn from Union Organizers

Labor Day. It marks the (unofficial) end of summer, the beginning of a new school year, and the storing away of all our white clothes! But, why do we celebrate it? We go to the parades, shop sales, and have picnics–but, what is it all for? I can remember when I was little going to the parade downtown with my father and grandfather. As members of the Teamsters Union (no they have no idea where Hoffa’s body really is), they march in the parade each year. All those years of going with them though I never quite understood what it’s all about? I always thought it was a silly holiday, with no point other than to give me a Monday off. After some research there is some interesting history there.

History of Labor Day

It officially become a Federal Holiday in 1894. It has been celebrated on the first Monday of September ever since, but its’ history starts well before 1894. The Labor Movement of the late 19th century spurred protest over working conditions during the Industrial Revolution. Laborers could work 12 hour days (I will never complain about my 9 hour days with overtime pay again) 7 days a week. Workers wanted to create a “working man’s holiday”. The first ever  parade occurred before it was an official national holiday. On September 5th, 1882, workers in New York took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square.

history of labor dayThe efforts of Labor unions helped improve working conditions for workers in the Industrial Revolution and strive to continue to. We continue to celebrate Labor Day to honor the efforts of laborers past and present. The U.S. Department of Labor defines the celebration stating, “It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Labor Day and Non-Profits

Technically unions are considered non-profits by the IRS. Though non-profit organizations typically don’t unionize, they have worked along side of union organizers to bring about change. Many times non-profits and the ideals workers are striving towards meshing together. There is much that the groups can learn from one another.

Non-profits can learn a thing or two from unions about organizing large groups to bring about change; they have been banding groups together to fight for workers rights for years. They can also lean on unions that have ideals that mirror their own organization and leverage them for donations and volunteers. Union organizers can learn how to be less political (as they seemed to be lately) and get back to their roots by banding with non-profits and helping to bring about social and economic change.

To all those working hard day in and day out, union or not, thank you for your contributions. Enjoy your families this Labor Day and relax! You deserve it!

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