Thiele: On Labor Day, Celebrate the Workers Who Run Our Economic Engine

Fred Thiele
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

To many New Yorkers, Labor Day signals time for barbecues with family and enjoying the last stretch of summer weather. However, it’s important to remember what Labor Day is all about by taking time to honor working people and joining the fight to make sure employees have the workplace protections they deserve.

New York State has a long history of labor activism; in fact, the very first Labor Day celebration took place in 1882 in New York City when union leaders gathered to recognize the vital role of the American worker and their contributions to the strength of our communities. This labor movement grew and by 1885, annual Labor Day celebrations were taking place throughout the country on the first Monday in September.

Then in 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire occurred in New York City – a national tragedy that led to major improvements in workplace safety. During that horrific disaster, a fire erupted on the top floors of the factory and because of unsafe conditions, over 100 workers, many of them young women, lost their lives. From that point on, the labor movement gained strength and activists were able to win a number of key worker protections that we often take for granted today. Rights such as the 40-hour work week, child labor protections and workplace health and safety standards allowed workers to enjoy a secure, middle-class lifestyle.

While we have made strides, there is still more to be done when it comes to workers’ rights. It’s clear that too many hardworking men and women are struggling to make ends meet, and no one who works full time should have to live in poverty. That’s why I’ve continually supported an increase in the minimum wage and recently passed legislation that would help ensure a fair, livable wage for all workers (A.7257). Giving working families a raise will help lift them up, providing a better quality of life for them, a brighter future for our community and a strong economy for all New Yorkers.

We also need to ensure women are compensated fairly – right now, women earn just 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, and for women of color the disparity is even greater. To close this gender wage gap, I helped pass the New York State Fair Pay Act so women will be guaranteed equal pay for equal work (A.6937). In addition, we must also ensure workers are given the flexibility they need to care for their families without risking their job. That’s why I helped pass legislation that would guarantee paid family leave to ensure working people can care for newborn children or a sick family member without sacrificing the income they rely on (A.3870).

New York State has a long history of standing up for workers and their rights, because we know they’re the backbone of our economy. The workers on the East End can count on me to be a strong voice for them, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting the contributions they’ve made this Labor Day.

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