Celebrating Labor Day
By Grant Glickson
President, The NewsGuild of New York
Since grade school, Labor Day has been a significant holiday for me.
For starters, I was born on Labor Day, and growing up, especially as a grade school student, the day represented both a happy time (gifts, of course) and a rather somber occasion (going back to school). As I came into adulthood, it became clear that I was going to play a role in the labor movement. After all, unionism was in my family’s heritage: my great grandfather was an organizer (Painters Union); my grandfather and grandmother were proud union members (Teamsters and 1199, respectively,) and my dad has been an activist (Social Services Employees Union) for more than 50 years. We joke that their sacrifices and commitment to fighting for workers were passed down genetically to my sister (Business Agent for D37) and me.
Like many union households, we grew up listening to stories of the workplace. Brave workers. Lousy bosses. Strong contracts. I grew up hearing about my great grandfather, Max Eckstein, who risked putting food on the table for his family during the Great Depression as he organized workers. My grandparents constantly praised their unions for providing fair wages that allowed them to raise two kids and eventually retire to a comfortable lifestyle (courtesy of a generous pension plan).
My father was one of a dozen leaders who were suspended from work for seven weeks for not following the directive of the police ordering social workers to return to work in their 1967 strike.
It’s safe to say that union pride runs deep in my family.
For those of us fortunate enough to have off from work this Labor Day, I am hopeful that a moment was spent reflecting and paying tribute to the sacrifices workers have made and continue to make to strengthen our union. Look at The New York Times for instance, where there were three strikes (1962-63, 1965 and 1981), and where major protections were secured, most notably the Guild-Times Pension Plan, which has grown to over $300 million. In the 1970s, the Women’s Caucus filed a federal lawsuit that resulted in a $350,000 settlement and management’s pledge to promote more women. Minority staffers filed a similar suit later that decade, which led to a $1.8 million settlement and helped the Guild extend its nondiscrimination clauses to protect both sexual orientation and gender expression.
Consumers Union was born out of a strike. In 1935, the staff of Consumer's Research Magazine struck for the right to form a union. And beaten down by management, the workers formed their own company: Consumers Union of the United States. Some of the company's seed money was provided by the labor movement. Heywood Broun, a founder of The Newspaper Guild, was on the company’s original Board of Directors.
This generation of Guild members has continued to stand up collectively for their rights through bold, innovative mobilization efforts and courageous acts of solidarity. Our membership constantly proves that there is strength in numbers—and that strength is how we win strong contracts and protections for ourselves and each other.
We’ve seen tremendous bravery amongst the new members we’ve organized at workplaces such as Jacobin, Law360, Mic, The New Republic, Roosevelt Institute and The New Yorker, who have led successful campaigns because of their desire to achieve fairness in the workplace.
This has been an incredible year for the media industry when fighting for a voice in the newsroom. We’ve said it and heard it time and again, but there is still much work to do. We must continue to organize and mobilize and demonstrate why we deserve the union, and why our country needs media workers. Our industries, both media and labor, are under constant attack. This year, it’s important to stand and march together, making a strong showing at the Labor Day Parade on Saturday, September 8. Let’s come together to showcase our power and tell the world why we’re here.
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