Labor, Politics And A Changing Of The Guard

Published: Friday, August 29, 2014 - 5:43pm
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Monday is Labor Day. For some, Saturday will mark the beginning of a three day weekend. For others, Monday is just another work day. But Labor Day was nationally recognized in 1894 as a holiday to commemorate the contribution that America’s workers make to the nation.

Though the holiday is usually associated with the last day of summer and leisure, its roots are anything but peaceful. It was signed into law just six days after the violent end of the American Railroad Union’s Pullman Strike.

While today in Arizona, labor union participation is one of the lowest in the country, sitting at just 6 percent in 2013, the state was on the cutting edge of labor politics in its infancy.

Arizona native Katherine Benton-Cohen is a history professor at Georgetown. She says during the early 1900s, copper miners rapidly organized into a variety of unions; some that were very radical and interested in not just protecting the workers, but in challenging the wage labor system and renegotiating the way that corporations and employees related to one another.

During the time, it was a formal practice to pay Mexican-origin workers less than American, or white, workers. The next generation of unions challenged that discrimination, and their success gave birth to the next wave of union members.  

The congressional primary victory by Ruben Gallego over Mary Rose Wilcox this week signals a generational shift in Latino politics to many.

We asked consultant Jaime Molera of the Molera Alvarez Group about how elected officials like Wilcox and Ed Pastor paved the way for politicians like Gallego.

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