The Resurgence of Labor

“With the resurgence of labor, I believe we see a reassertion of a great tradition of progressive politics--- a tradition which includes men and women, black and white, immigrant and citizen. I believe we see the reassertion of a grand coalition of reform.”
Sargent Shriver | September 7, 1972

Our Quote of the Week feels resonant today as we see labor actions occurring across different economic sectors throughout the country. Between the structural disruptions caused by everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to technological changes, and inequitable discrepancies in compensation between senior executives and front-line staff, more and more workers are responding to employment practices that don’t work for them.

In a speech given 51 years ago, Sargent Shriver addressed American workers and articulated all of the issues facing labor that he saw at the time. This is one in a of a series of speeches that Shriver made on the campaign trail in 1972, when he ran for Vice President on the McGovern ticket. He stressed the importance of having adequate employment and good wages, but added that these are not enough, that in order for people to thrive, it is the quality of their work that mattered. Focusing on job productivity, safety, and the rapid changes that technology is bringing, Shriver emphasized that there is much more to job satisfaction than merely being employed. It is in this context that he spoke of labor taking up “the cause of a moving, daring, progressive America”.

Many of the basic worker protections that define our lives today, the 40-hour work week, the eight-hour work day, the minimum wage, the right to overtime, were put in place thanks to the efforts of labor actions. Still, as a society, we have much, much further to go to protect our workers. Too many in the US go without health insurance, adequate vacation time, parental and sick leaves, and other protections.

Today and every day, we are grateful for the protections and benefits that our labor force has fought for over the decades, and we support a transition to a society in which the well being and dignity of all workers is protected.

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Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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