I know this post is way overdue but it is still important to understand that the observence of Labor Day which started in the 1890s was to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations”. This was also the time of the “Robber Barons”. That is, those industrialists who were accumulating great wealth primarily on the backs of their workers. It was not until a Republican named Theodore Roosevelt came to the White House that their monoplies were broken up.
Labor Day was born in the late 19th century, during a time of raw fear about the path of economic development.
Opportunities for decent, middle-class livelihoods seemed to be shrinking, and the “laboring classes” confronted a grim future of what many called wage slavery. Conservatives held most of the seats of power, but reform-minded politicians, activists and policy mavens were thinking big about labor’s rights and wrongs….
During and after the New Deal, unions were essential to forging a broad new middle class — not only because they raised wages and benefits, but also because they countered corporate and financial political power, which today is the greatest impediment to serious change. Without a rejuvenated labor movement, it’s almost inconceivable that breakthrough reforms will come to pass…
As mentioned above the laboring class had a grim future of wage slavery. This would start to change as workers started banding together to demand their share of the profits of the company. But since the corporate owners controlled most of city, state, and even national government and law enforcement the workers simply didn’t have the power to get what they wanted. Strikes were bloody with the local police taking their orders from the ruling class conservatives.
The main point of the NY Times source article is that the labor unions of one hundred years ago are just not applicable to today’s times. A new version needs to be discovered for today and the sooner the better..