The Collective Labor Behind Protecting and Improving the Lives of American Workers

By Mana Mostatabi, Senior Director

For many Americans across the nation, September 5th, Labor Day, marks the unofficial end to summer. But more than being known as a federal holiday, Labor Day pays tribute to the American workforce and celebrates the accomplishments of labor unions during some of this country’s darkest days.

At the peak of the Industrial Revolution, Americans worked 12-hour days, seven days a week in unsafe working conditions. Even children as young as 5 years old worked dangerous jobs, and only for a fraction of the pay earned by adults. It was at this time that labor unions began to appear, organizing strikes and rallies intended to push employers to address workplace conditions, wages, and hours.

On September 5, 1882, some 10,000 workers in New York City took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square, in what is largely considered the first Labor Day parade. The idea of a “workingman’s holiday” took hold, and many states passed legislation recognizing Labor Day as a holiday, although Congress wouldn’t recognize the holiday until 12 years later.

Today, in large part thanks to the unions and labor rights activists, American workers are much better protected. But despite years of gains, there remains an enormous amount of work to do to protect the livelihoods of American workers. This is where groups like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) come in. SEIU is a national labor union with affiliate organizations across the nation. Hatcher is proud to work with one of their affiliates, SEIU Local 500, which represents 20,000 members working at colleges, universities, public schools, and nonprofits across Maryland and Washington, DC.

As a grassroots organization, SEIU Local 500 works on the ground to bring employees together to engage in collective bargaining with their employers. The group also engages in political work to ensure that pro-labor officials are elected to office at all levels of government. One doesn’t need to look too far to see just how powerful a united collective can be in improving the working conditions, pay, and benefits of workers.

This power was seen recently when SEIU Local 500 organized a five-day strike in response to a local university’s decision to deny union members’ regular annual raises. The strike culminated in immense community support from students, donors, and elected officials across the DC Metropolitan Area. SEIU Local 500 efforts were not in vain as the union announced a settlement with the local university that increases both pay and benefits for staff that work in the university’s provost division.

By putting forth our knowledgeable and experienced team to coordinate media outreach, craft messaging and speeches, and create engaging graphics and content to help drive engagement across the union’s digital platforms, Hatcher has worked alongside SEIU Local 500 in advancing its mission to improve the lives of this region’s workforce. The work of SEIU Local 500 is invaluable as it sparks change where the impact is most felt, at the ground level or on the front lines.