Guild members march in annual Labor Day parade

LOCAL labor parade HICKEY LOCAL labor parade HICKEYThe Buffalo Newspaper Guild once again marched in the annual AFL- CIO Labor Day Parade and Picnic on Monday, Sept. 7. The free event welcomed all Guild members, spouses, kids and well-behaved pets.

The fun event celebrated workers and their achievements. The parade headed down Abbott Road in South Buffalo to Cazenovia Park, where free hotdogs, hamburgers, snacks and drinks were provided to all.

Unions put on show of pride and unity at South Buffalo parade (Sept. 7, The Buffalo News)

Why a parade?

Labor Day stems from a chapter of history during which the average American worked long hours seven days a week for minuscule pay. Even young children worked in factories and mines.

Labor unions began to form and organize strikes to improve pay, hours and unsafe working conditions. Among many actions, on Sept. 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

The idea of a workingman’s holiday caught on in other cities, and states passed legislation recognizing it. A turning point occurred in the late 1890s when tens of thousands of workers nationwide employed by the Pullman railroad company went on strike to protest wage cuts. President Grover Cleveland ordered a harsh response by sending troops to Chicago, an action that led to riots in which workers were killed and injured.

After the strike ended, Cleveland and Congress in 1894 designated Labor Day a national holiday as a conciliatory gesture to labor.

In the years since, the labor movement brought us the 40-hour, five-day workweek, overtime pay, paid holidays, pensions, health insurance, an end to child labor, safer working conditions, the right to organize and bargain collectively, and many other workplace rights.

Here’s what Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor, said in 1898 about Labor Day: It’s “the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed…that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it.”