[WASHINGTON, D.C.] September 3, 2011 – In a Labor Day message to union masonry and trowel trades craftworkers across the U.S. and Canada represented by the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, International Union President James Boland said the following:
“These days it’s far more common for North Americans to associate Labor Day with making the most of the waning days of summer rather than with the holiday’s turbulent origins. As this Labor Day approaches, those earlier chaotic times are hardly a thing of the past. Unions are once again under attack along with a worker’s right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining. Not only that but during the steepest downturn since the Great Depression, we’re seeing corporations and their political allies scheming to rebuild the country’s economic recovery on the backs of the middle class.
In 1894, Congress designated the first Monday in September as a national holiday honoring labor in response to President Grover Cleveland’s disastrous handling of the Pullman Company strike in which two strikers were killed by U. S. marshals. Canada followed suit with its Labour Day designation in the same year. Although Cleveland signed the U.S. bill into law, it was too little too late and he ultimately lost his re-election bid.
I think there’s a lesson in this for BAC and all union members as well as for today’s public officials. Union brothers and sisters who came before us fought for the right to organize, to join a union, and to take part in strikes and demonstrations despite the very real risks of beatings, jail, even death.
I’ve worked with people from just about every discipline and union affiliation, and I can say without question there are no tougher or more determined trade unionists than BAC members. We have had to fight for everything we have and will not stand idly by as our work opportunities dry up or our hard-earned benefits are challenged.
At the bargaining table, we will continue to fight for the wages that you have worked and trained so hard to command. At the ballot box, we are putting elected officials and candidates on notice: we need jobs, not platitudes and unless that’s your priority, don’t expect our support.
During times like these, solidarity is more than our solace – it is our strength. We intend to be around long after this storm is over. Thank you for hanging in there and for your ongoing support and dedication.
Best wishes to you and your family for a safe and enjoyable Labor Day."
The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers represents 100,000 skilled masonry workers in the United States and Canada. It is the oldest continuously operating construction union in North America.