This Labor Day, Let’s Celebrate the Optimism in the Labor Movement


“With the passage of time, the public has become convinced that they are at a new normal of a lower, poorer quality of life.”

So says a professor at Rutgers after seeing the results of their survey of general attitudes about the state of the national economy. Despite the reforms to the financial sector, the rise of the Occupy movement, and the renaissance of income inequality as a political issue, it seems the evidence points to an unfortunate conclusion: pessimism has taken hold in the public.

I know of one place, though, where the fighting spirit to carry on the quest for great, broader prosperity continues. That place is wherever the Labor Movement goes.

On this Labor Day, we will gather, like so many times before, and sing the songs of protest and defiance, and celebrate the organizing victories over the last year. We will also remember the fallen workers and hear from elected leaders about the future. Then, at the end, we’ll join together and sing “Solidarity Forever.”

Now, it’s the “Solidarity” part that gets all the publicity – just check out the bumper stickers in the parking lot of a local union hall. But, it’s the “Forever” part that I always come back to when I hear stats like those from the Rutgers study. One thing that gives me hope is that there will always be people unwilling to accept “a lower, poorer quality of life,” and who will be ready to take action on that defiance.

Labor doesn’t always do everything right, and it doesn’t win enough of the fights. But, as long as people yearn for economic justice, and are willing to risk speaking up on their own behalves, there will always be a movement to make “normal” a higher, richer reality for all.

About the author. Ben Grant is an attorney at the workers’ rights law firm, McTeague Higbee. He can be reached at 207-725-5581 or at

Maine at Work

About Maine at Work

Karen Bilodeau and Ben Grant are attorneys at the workers' rights law firm McTeague Higbee. With experience in both state and federal courts including national litigation, they have particular prominence in labor and employment litigation, workers' compensation, and construction accidents. They use this blog to educate Mainers about their workers' and individual rights in a number of different legal matters. For more information, go to