STATE REPRESENTATIVE
PAUL C. CASEY

Room 473-B
State House
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-2230
District Office
585A Main St.
Winchester, MA 01890
Telephone: (617) 721-7285 or (617) 438-7185

A View from the Hill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 3, 1999
CONTACT: Tom Nolan (617) 722-2240

A LESSON ON LABOR DAY

Even though I do not mark the first day of school on my calendar since my daughter is only 3 months old, I still have a sixth sense about when it begins. I was in the store the other day and I saw an all-too-familiar sight. A 12 year old boy, burdened with shopping bags filled with pencils, notebooks, and markers, was begging his mother to take him home. He cried, "Mom...I only have 4 days left...we're wasting my time!". Let's face it- most kids don't want summer to end. If they had to choose between Nintendo 64 and the beach, or math problems and book reports, we know which choice they would make. Now is the time of year when every minute counts, because once that holiday comes around on the first Monday in September, they know school is right around the corner. Many do not realize that the holiday which gives them that "one more day" represents a movement which helped guarantee their right to go to school in the first place.

Labor Day, which pays homage to the working men and women of America, symbolizes the gains made by working people throughout the history of the nation. The holiday began when the Knights of Labor- the first workers' organization to advocate for the inclusion of all people regardless of race, creed, trade, or degree of skill- held a parade on the first Monday in September in 1884 in New York City. They declared that from then on, a parade would be held every year on the first Monday in September to celebrate American workers. In 1887, Massachusetts adopted Labor Day as an official holiday and in 1894, that the federal government followed suit. Labor Day celebrates the progress made by the American labor movement against the unregulated business practices of the past. In the time of the first Labor Day march in 1884, working conditions in America were decrepit. People were forced to work long hours, often for seven days a week in extremely unhealthy environments. Workers were mistreated by their bosses and often lived in a state of "wage slavery." American children, as young as six, sold newspapers, worked in textile mills, and operated heavy machinery. It was common to see such children coming out of factories smeared with soot and grease. Sometimes they would be missing fingers from the industrial accidents that were so commonplace. In such an atmosphere, those who did go to school were considered fortunate.

In response to such conditions, the Knights of Labor, along with many other workers' movements, pushed for progressive changes. They fought hard for the eight hour work day and the five day work week. They were successful in abolishing convict labor, guaranteeing safe working conditions, allowing for a right to strike, establishing a minimum wage, and mandating that all children shall spend their days in a schoolroom and not on an assembly line. The efforts of the labor movement, continuing into the present, have resulted in living conditions for which all of us can be thankful.

Just as Massachusetts was among the first states to adopt Labor Day in recognition of its working class, it continues to be a pioneer in adopting measures that contribute to a healthy and vibrant economy in which all may prosper. Here in the State House we have continued to support policies that are sensitive to the needs of all those who work for a living. We have cut taxes significantly, improved working conditions, and most recently, passed legislation to raise the minimum wage so that all persons in the Commonwealth can earn a decent living. In the past several years, we have enacted close to 30 tax cuts, including last year's record-breaking cut. Such measures allow our citizens to hold on to the money they work so hard for, and give businesses the investment capital that is desperately needed to promote economic growth. By stimulating the economy with investment capital, we create more job opportunities for the citizens of Massachusetts. These new jobs expand the employment options for the working person. We are currently working on a tax cut for 100,000 low income workers, called the Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit. This bill will increase the current tax credit from ten to twenty-five percent of the federal credit, giving families and individual workers the means to meet their costs of living. This policy is designed to help those who are not prospering from the current economic boom.

Naturally, some measures were taken to ensure that the rising tide would lift all boats. In order to guarantee that no one is left to drown, we supported a $1.50 hike in the minimum wage over a two year period. This will help guarantee that workers will fully share in the fruits of their labor and be able to meet the ever-rising cost of living. The recent economic boom, which has substantially lowered the unemployment rate and tightened the labor market, has already driven wages up. Because of this rise, many workers will not be directly affected by the hike since they are already receiving higher wages. However, for those 97,000 workers who continue to remain in the lower end of the pay scale, the minimum wage boost is a well-deserved bonus.

Here in the State House we remain committed to maintaining a healthy and productive workforce. We continually support substantial budget appropriations to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. This funding translates into valuable services for working people. Among these are re-employment assistance for dislocated workers, school-to-work programs that provide on the job training to high school students, apprentice training, industrial accident investigations, and welfare-to-work skill building programs. These programs help to make Massachusetts citizens the highly skilled and productive workers that they are. Such qualified workers make for a successful economy.

Looking back 100 years, we notice that many strides have been made by and for the working person. We will continue to ensure that all citizens share in the prosperity of economic system in the good times, and are shielded from its negative consequences in the bad times. It is in the best interest of all that we continue to support policies that are friendly to working men and women. After all, who is the typical working person? It is he who dutifully comes to work day after day, year after year. It is she who worries about how to put food on the table, how to meet rent or mortgage expenses each month, and how to stay afloat with rising tuition costs. The modern working person cares about earning a decent living in order to provide a higher standard of life for his or her family.

It does not matter whether you put on a suit or uniform in the morning. At the end of the day, all of us have the same concerns and worries. Just as Thomas Jefferson sought to bridge the gap between two different political factions by crying, "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists," today we hope to unite our people together behind the higher purpose of guaranteeing the health and well-being of our citizens in the years to come. To all of you I give my best for a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend. For those of you returning to school, just remember that doing math problems and book reports is a heck of a lot better than stitching shoes and selling newspapers.

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