The Original Federal Labor Day Law, Along with Some Other Reliable Historical Labor Day Information on the Web

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A September 5, 2011 blog post entitled “Celebrating Labor” on the Library of Congress web site includes a link to the text of the bill signed into law by President Grover Cleveland in 1894 making Labor Day a legal holiday. Here is the original federal Labor Day law, a bill introduced in the United States Senate in 1893 as S. 730, passed by the 53rd Congress. It’s the “day celebrated and known as Labor’s Holiday.”

Here’s a link to a Google e-book called Labor Day Annual, 1893 that includes the status of Labor Day in the states as an official holiday. The list of states is on pages 12-14. “The agitation, begun in New York, extended to other States with most gratifying results.”

The U.S. Department of Labor has a Labor Day History page.

The latest 2012 summary of union members from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:

In 2011, the union membership rate – the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union – was 11.8 percent, essentially unchanged from 11.9 percent in 2010…The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.8 million, also showed little movement over the year…Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (37.0 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.9 percent).

The Union Membership and Coverage Database is an Internet data resource providing private and public sector labor union membership, coverage, and density estimates compiled from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly household survey, using BLS methods.  Economy-wide estimates are provided beginning in 1973; estimates by state, detailed industry, and detailed occupation begin in 1983; and estimates by metropolitan area begin in 1986.

According to the data in the Union Membership and Coverage Database, these are the union statistics for California in 2011:

  • 17.1% of all workers belong to a union and 18.2% are represented by a union
  • 56.9% of government workers belong to a union and 60.0% are represented by a union
  • 9.0% of private sector workers belong to a union and 9.7% are represented by a union
  • 16.9% of construction workers belong to a union and 18.2% are represented by a union
  • 6.4% of manufacturing workers belong to a union and 6.7% are represented by a union
  • 56.1% of union workers in California work for the government

Obviously, the political power of unions in California is dependent on government employment.

David Denholm, president of the Public Service Research Foundation near Washington, D.C., prepared these charts indicating the declines in the unionization of the construction workforce in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Los Angeles basin, and the San Joaquin Valley (home of Phase One of the future California High Speed Rail):

Decline of Construction Unions in California: San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles Area, and San Joaquin Valley (home of the High Speed Rail)

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