A day for workers

Union leaders reflect on significance of Labor Day

Beginning in the 1890s, a federal holiday aimed at celebrating America’s working men and women has been held annually; now, Labor Day signals the end of summer for many as August turns to September.

Labor Day “is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers” and is a creation of the labor movement, according to the United States Department of Labor.

“I think it’s a great way to celebrate working,” said Marshalltown Education Association President and Anson Elementary kindergarten teacher Kate Troskey on the holiday.

United Auto Workers Local 893 President Rich Park said Labor Day still holds significance among many workers.

“It’s an opportunity, I think, not just for us here in Marshalltown but the entire country, to take a day to step back and really realize what labor has meant to this country and how important part it’s played in building this country to what it is today,” he said. “The list goes on and on, what organized labor is able to help.”

Historically, he said organized labor was able to bring American workers benefits like paid vacation, time-and-a-half pay, safer working environments and standards, and more.

“It’s my opinion that there wouldn’t be a middle class in this country if it weren’t for organized labor,” Park said. “I hope that people will continue to buy American made, and look for the union label when they do.”

Troskey said she, along with many teachers and Americans in general, is looking forward to the three-day weekend brought with the holiday.

“The beginning of the year is definitely a busy time for all of the teachers, so it’s nice to have an extra day in there,” she said.

Troskey added that teachers benefit from organizations like the MEA.

“I think it’s very beneficial as a teacher to be part of the union,” she said. “It also protects us from some of those hard situations that we might have … we also have the Iowa State Education Association and the national [association], and it’s nice to know that we have all those people backing us up.”

The MEA has a good relationship with the Marshalltown Schools administrators, Troskey said.

“Really, in Marshalltown, the union has done a very good job of having good communication with our central office staff,” she said.

Park said non-union workers today benefit from the historical labor movement.

“All those [benefits] came from bargaining, and then they were passed on to other, non-union positions,” he said. “I hope people realize that, whether they’re union or not … they’re benefiting from those negotiated contracts that organized labor has been able to get over the years.”

According to the History Channel website, Labor Day first became a national holiday in 1894. In years prior, a similar holiday was celebrated at the municipal and state levels in different parts of the country.

Per the U.S. Department of Labor, the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in 1882 in New York City.

For many families in Central Iowa, Labor Day is also an opportunity to take a break from everyday life and spend time with friends and family as fall approaches.

For more information on the holiday, visit https://dol.gov


Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com