Heidi and I live in a loft in a converted mill in our New Hampshire town. It’s a great space and we love it here.
But I’m also aware of its history. The owner refused to let workers unionize. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the mostly women who were employed here worked long days, including having to labor two hours before breakfast. There were tragic industrial accidents, and even deaths, because the owners cared more about production and revenue than taking safety precautions.
At other mills across New Hampshire, the Irish side of my family found work. They took some of the only jobs that were available to new immigrants and labored in harsh conditions in an often hostile new country in order to escape the destitution back home.
The irony that, a few generations down the line, their great-great grandchild lives in comfort in a place so like the ones they worked so hard in is not lost on me.
On Labor Day I give thanks for them, and for all workers. And I give thanks for the unions that protected the generations that came after them, and laborers today.
And, as a person of faith, I pledge to stand up for the dignity, safety, and fair treatment of all in their places of work.