Rock Candy

Rock Candy

Labor Day: The last hurrah of summer and the universal salute to the workforce.

Per History.com, Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894. The holiday’s roots are based on the fights from American unions during the Industrial Revolution. Among the things those workers fought for were a liveable wage, safe working conditions and reasonable work hours. Many of the protections and rights those unions fought for still impact the workforce today. They are reflected in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Congress passed this legislation in 1938. It helped establish the minimum wage, banned most child labor and helped establish the 40-hour workweek.

The spirit of those unions is alive and well today. That spirit is reflected in the ongoing strikes by the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Furthermore, the fight for a four-day workweek has also reemerged, and it’s been a concept embraced by some surprising figures. For example, The Intercept points out that then-Vice President Richard Nixon once touted the four-day workweek. He did this in 1956 when he and President Dwight Eisenhower were running for re-election.

“The time is not far distant when the working man can have a four-day week and family life will be even more fully enjoyed by every American,” said Nixon. “[These are] not dreams or idle boasts, simply projections of the gains we have made in the past four years.”

The fight for a four-day workweek continues, as does the reexamination of a living wage. However, take a moment this Labor Day to remember the many brave workers who sacrificed so much to make this holiday possible. Whatever you’re doing for Labor Day, do yourself a favor and blare at least one of these five tracks in their honor.

  • Skid Row – “Slave to the Grind”

    Skid Row’s debut gets a lot of attention, but their sophomore effort and its title track is killer and deserves more due from rockers everywhere. This song’s lyrics likely hit close to home for many: “You got me forced to break my lids in two/I’m still stuck inside the rubber room/I gotta punch the clock that leads the blind/I’m just another gear in the assembly line, whoa no.”

  • The Ramones – “It’s Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)”

    Honestly, just this video alone is reason enough to include this track on the list. Also, even though many of us are working in the 9 to 5 world, this is another feeling that many workers often feel.

  • The Clash – “Career Opportunities”

    Probably the most scathing song about the workforce ever. (“Career opportunity, the one that never knocks/Every job they offer you’s to keep you out the dock/Career opportunity, the one that never knocks.”) We’d expect nothing less from the only band that matters.

  • Rush – “Working Man”

    Come for the rousing track; stay for Alex Lifeson’s awesome solo. And sure, this was pre-Neil Peart, but “Working Man” still rules.

  • Green Day – “Working Class Hero”

    It’s gutsy for anyone to cover John Lennon, but Green Day nailed this cover. Their cover was released in 2007 on the compilation album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.

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