Top 10 Labor Day Conspiracies
8. The 40 Hour Workweek Battle
Believe it or not, our average workdays increased from eight hours in the Middle Ages to 14 hours during the Industrial Revolution. It was President Martin Van Buren who signed an executive order bringing the tradesman's workday down to ten hours, tops. But that was only for the manual laborers; the rest of the country suffered around the clock for pennies.
A 1938 bill made the 40-hour workweek the standard in America, which we have had ever since. But the recent economic downturn has given employers yet another opportunity to drag us back to the slave era, under the guise of "cutting costs."
According to an interview he gave to Indiana University, Steven Ashby of the Department of Labor Studies believes "there is a move by employers to have fewer workers do more work. Part of that is because of pension costs, but a bigger part of is the cost of health care. While it isn't the employers' fault that health care goes up 10 to 20 percent a year, it is their fault that their associations have fought a universal health-care system, which every country in western Europe has. Here, the employers have to pay for employees' health care."
He adds: "There is a big push in industry and hospitals to move to the 12-hour shift, with no overtime pay after eight hours. All the studies show that this leads to more health problems and accidents."
7. Corrupt Union Bosses
Michelle Malkin, Linda Chavez and other conservative bloggers have long pushed the "labor leaders are corrupt" line. But is this just a smear designed to instill fear in the workers and deter them from forming a union?
Of John Sweeney, the former President of AFL-CIO, blogger Kimberly Morin said: "It is reprehensible that Obama gave him the Medal of Freedom. It is disgusting and despicable that Obama is trying to legitimize a left wing lunatic, but not surprising." The union boss in the second season of HBO's The Wire was portrayed as having paid bribes to keep his dockwork business afloat. There are some real-life instances of corruption, as well: in 2010, Michael Forde of New York's carpentry union was slapped with 11 years in prison for racketeering, joining his two predecessors, both of whom were jailed for corruption.
6. Joe Hill
Hill, the author of several standard folk songs of the early 1900s (including "Casey Jones - the Union Scab"), was executed after being convicted of murder in Salt Lake City, Utah. But Hill was most likely innocent -- and may have taken the fall because of his ties to the Industrial Workers of the World.
Hill began organizing workers in 1910, and wrote many of his most popular songs around that time, mocking the rich and the powerful with his popular song parodies. On January 14, 1910, he wandered into a hospital with a gunshot wound... and was charged with the murder of a policeman and the policeman's son.