Assemblyman Thiele: Remember the True Meaning of Labor Day and Celebrate Workers

August 30, 2019

For many New Yorkers, the first Monday of September each year – known as Labor Day – is a time to gather with family and friends and enjoy the final days of summer before the busy fall months arrive. But while we take part in these festivities, it’s important to remember what it is we’re celebrating and honor the working people who have and continue to make our state and nation strong. This Labor Day, Sept. 2, take time to recognize the achievements of all our workers and show your support to help ensure employees get the rights and protections they deserve.

This year marks the 125th anniversary of Labor Day being celebrated as a national holiday. New York State has long been a leader in the labor movement, having hosted the first Labor Day events in New York City in 1882. It was declared a national holiday in 1894, with celebrations initially consisting of street parades and festivals and expanding over the years to include speeches, barbecues, picnics and other fun outdoor activities.[1]

In 1911, the meaning behind Labor Day took on even more significance after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire occurred in New York City, taking the lives of 145 workers, most of them teenage girls. It’s remembered as one of the most tragic incidents in American industrial history, as many of the deaths were caused by neglected safety features and locked doors within the building. The horrific disaster led to the development of vital worker protections that we often take for granted today, including the 40-hour workweek, child labor laws and workplace health and safety standards.[2]

While we have come a long way, there’s still much more that needs to be done to ensure all working people are treated with equality and respect. The Assembly made great strides this past legislative session to strengthen workers’ rights and make the workplace a safer environment for all.

Every worker should have modern rights and be given the compensation they deserve. That’s why I helped pass the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, which extends worker protections – including collective bargaining and mandatory overtime pay – to New York farmworkers (Ch. 105 of 2019). In addition, the Assembly remains committed to fighting for true pay equality – an issue that’s almost unfathomable to believe still exists in 2019. To combat wage disparities, I helped pass a law that expands equal pay provisions for substantially similar work and prohibits differentials in pay based on factors including age, race, gender identity or expression, national origin and all other protected classes (Ch. 93 of 2019).

Further, no one should ever feel threatened or uncomfortable at work. To that end, I helped pass a law removing the requirement that harassment be “severe or pervasive” to be legally actionable (Ch. 160 of 2019). This limited definition has caused employees to be silenced for far too long, and this law will empower more victims to tell their story and let them know we’re listening and will always work to protect them. To further ensure workers don’t suffer at the hands of people in power, the Assembly passed the Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (SWEAT) bill to help employees recoup stolen wages (A.486-B). Workers shouldn’t be paid less because of unscrupulous employers, and this will help hardworking New Yorkers get what they’ve earned.

Workers in the First Assembly District can count on me to fight for their rights and make their voices heard. I hope you’ll join me in supporting the contributions working people, past and present, have made this Labor Day. The prosperity and well-being of our state and nation relies on them and taking a moment to express gratitude is the least we can do.

As always, my door is open. If you have questions or concerns about this or any other community issue, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 631-537-2583 or