131 Years Later

August 31, 2018

131 years ago, Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day an official holiday. It wasn't until 1894 that the federal government made it a national holiday. 

These days, it's associated mostly with great sales and the last long weekend before school starts. While those things are nice, Labor Day marks something much more significant for our history as a country and for workers today.

I spent most of my early career working on human and labor rights for apparel workers all over the world. When Labor Day rolls around, it means something important to me. I take pause and reflect on the impact of labor, on people’s hard work and how it drives every economy.  I also think about how easily it is misunderstood, not recognized -or worse, exploited. I think about how we need to honor and celebrate and protect good work.

The story of labor is the story of the modern economy and its history is continually being written by you and me and by billions of other individuals who contribute to making social and economic achievements. In the US, we have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to labor and human rights: advancements in labor laws, safer working conditions and worker’s voices reflected in the workplace.  This all grew from the organized labor movement – trade unions brought a collective voice where there wasn’t one previously.  While the role trade of unions has evolved over the century, they are a critical chapter in the history of workers rights.

Now, as workers we each have protections by the federal and state government that ensure we have a healthy work environment, we have a minimum wage and we have a restricted working week.  Now there are many opinions about the level of quality of these laws, but we have them. And in comparison, to countries all over the world – where our clothing is made, these workers still dream for the day where their voices are heard and their rights are upheld.

For us at The Renewal Workshop, we stand for the right to decent work at a fair wage in a safe environment. These commitments are part of our Core Values and in our code of conduct.

We also mark this day as a celebration for the incredible contribution our team has made. They invest their creative and best selves to solving simple and complicated problems to make our industry circular and our world better.

We hope you'll take a moment this Labor Day to reflect on the history of this holiday and enjoy the meaning and the moment. 

“The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”[1]



[1] https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history

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