Biden celebrates unions and job creation during a Philadelphia Labor Day appearance

President Joe Biden addressed a crowd assembled in Philadelphia for a Labor Day parade, expressing his enthusiasm for “celebrating employment, well-compensated employment, employment that can support a family, and union employment.”

President Joe Biden addresses a Labor Day gathering at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 in Philadelphia on Monday, September 4, 2023. (Photograph by Matt Rourke, courtesy of AP)

In Philadelphia, President Joe Biden, frequently acclaimed as the most pro-union president in history, emphasized the pivotal role of unions and praised the contributions of American workers to the economy during his Labor Day appearance on Monday.

The Democratic president addressed the continuous economic rebound after the significant blow of the COVID-19 pandemic. He went into greater detail about his administration’s initiatives to fund infrastructure improvements. He also emphasised the importance of unions in bolstering the middle class, saying, “On this Labour Day, we are commemorating jobs – well-paying jobs capable of sustaining families, especially those within the union.” President Biden, for example, chose to walk around the stage, which featured banners proclaiming “UNION STRONG,” rather than stand at a traditional podium.

This year’s Labor Day arrived amidst a backdrop of emboldened U.S. unions across various sectors and the potential for a strike involving 146,000 United Auto Workers union members. Simultaneously, the U.S. experienced job growth, with more people actively seeking employment, marking the most significant uptick since January—a fact President Biden was keen to highlight as he eyes reelection in 2024.

Biden delivered his Labor Day speech shortly after the announcement that U.S. employers added 187,000 jobs in August, signifying a slowing yet resilient labor market, notwithstanding the Federal Reserve’s imposition of high-interest rates.

The Labor Department’s Friday report also revealed an increase in the unemployment rate from 3.5% to 3.8%, the highest level since February 2022, albeit still historically low. Notably, this uptick stemmed from an encouraging factor: 736,000 people actively entered the job market last month, the most since January, although not all immediately secured employment. Only individuals actively seeking a job are counted as unemployed.

President Biden has consistently emphasised the importance of middle-class workers in the economy, claiming that when the middle class prospers, everyone benefits.

At the Tri-State Labor Day event in Philadelphia, hundreds of union workers, clad in their respective local T-shirts from various unions like the Sheet Metal Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, and Stagehands, gathered on a warm and muggy morning to hear the president’s address.

Lenny Nutter, a Philadelphia resident sporting a yellow Laborers International Union shirt, attended the event to express his support for Biden, noting that unions have become more active, partly owing to the president’s policies.

“Unions are expanding their membership, and a lot more work is being directed towards union workers,” Nutter remarked. President Biden has employed executive actions to promote worker organizing, publicly supported unionization efforts at major corporations such as Amazon, and authorized federal funding to assist union members’ pensions. Just last week, the Biden administration proposed a new rule that would make an additional 3.6 million U.S.workers eligible for overtime pay, representing one of the largest increases in decades.

“Now you’re going to get paid overtime,” President Biden assured the crowd.

Additionally, President Biden has traveled across the country, emphasizing how union labor is instrumental in constructing bridges and improving train tunnels as part of the bipartisan $1.1 trillion public works package passed by Congress in 2021.

“Unions elevate standards across the workforce and industries, boosting wages and enhancing benefits for everyone,” President Biden declared last week. “You’ve heard me say it many times: Wall Street didn’t build America. The middle class built America, and unions built the middle class.”

The 36th annual Tri-State Labor Day Parade and Family Celebration was hosted by the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, which, according to its website, comprises more than 100 local labor unions representing over 150,000 workers.

Why do we celebrate Labor Day?

Emerging from the labor movement of the 19th century, Labor Day originated during a challenging period for American workers who endured grueling hours, meager wages, and unsafe working conditions. As labor unions and advocates fervently championed improved treatment for workers, especially during the height of the Industrial Revolution, the concept of dedicating a day to honor trade and labor union members was conceived, as documented by

Today, Labor Day is still commemorated by numerous Americans through parades and festivities, mirroring the initial holiday proposal outlined by the U.S. Department of Labor. Over time, the observance has evolved to include speeches by elected officials and community leaders who underscore the holiday’s economic and civic significance.

What Is the Origin of Labor Day?

The official founder of Labor Day is a subject of debate, with two workers having credible claims, as per the Labor Department.

Historical records suggest that Peter J. McGuire, a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, initially proposed the idea for the holiday in 1882. However, recent research supports the argument that machinist Matthew Maguire, while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York in the same year, put forth the concept. Regardless of the precise attribution, Labor Day gained recognition from labor advocates and individual states well before it became a national holiday.

The inaugural Labor Day celebration took place in 1882 in New York City, organized by the Central Labor Union, according to the Labor Department. On this occasion, 10,000 workers voluntarily took time off from work to participate in a march from City Hall to Union Square, as documented by New York was the first state to propose legislation acknowledging Labor Day, but it was Oregon that enacted the initial law in 1887, as reported by the Labor Department. By 1894, a total of 32 states had adopted the holiday.

September 5th 1882 is the orginal of labor day.

When Was Labor Day First Officially Recognized at the Federal Level?

Labor Day received national recognition in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland signed a bill, duly passed by Congress, designating the first Monday in September as a holiday dedicated to workers.

However, this federal acknowledgment was hard-fought, emerging in the wake of considerable labor unrest and activism that brought the issue of workers’ rights into the public eye.

In May of that same year, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago initiated a strike to protest wage reductions and the dismissal of union representatives, as recounted by Just a month later, the government deployed troops to Chicago in response to a boycott of Pullman railway cars led by labor activist Eugene V. Debs. This intervention triggered a series of deadly riots.

In response to these events, Congress swiftly passed legislation establishing Labor Day as a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. On June 28, President Cleveland officially signed this legislation into law.

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