Recap: Labor Day 2016 in North Carolina

Parades, Press, and Service

Working people in North Carolina celebrated the holiday that bears our name with Labor Day parades and festivals, media outreach, and community service and the people of faith among them marked the 3rd Annual Labor Sabbath.


Canton, the small town in Western North Carolina which calls itself “Papertown, USA”, held its 110th Annual Labor Day Parade and Festival this year. United Steelworkers Local 507, which has represented people working at the Evergreen Paper Mill for 50 years, led the parade.

Watch WLOS’ coverage of the 110th Canton Labor Day Festival.

Charlotte’s annual Labor Day Parade drew hundreds of parade-goers, floats, marching bands, local celebrities, and politicians out onto the streets of Uptown.

Watch WCNC’s coverage of Labor Day in Charlotte.

Media Outreach

NC State AFL-CIO President James Andrews went on the Sunday radio program News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss wages and the everyday struggles working people face.

“If you really want to build the middle class, then you’ve got to talk about giving workers an opportunity to do what the law says they have the right to do, and that is to come together and bargain collectively.” — James Andrews, 9/4/16

Listen to James’ full interview.

“Labor Day: Not Just BBQ’s and Beaches” was the title of NC State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan’s Labor Day guest blog post for Women AdvaNCe. “It’s also a time to be thankful for what the labor movement has done to help all working people,” said MaryBe.

“Unions are essential to economic justice. Union workers earn 30% more on average than non-union workers, and the union advantage is even greater for women and people of color. Unions help not just their members—they raise wages and standards for all working people, and now in this era of fewer unions, we all suffer.” — MaryBe McMillan, 9/5/16

Read MaryBe McMillan’s blog post about women, unions, and Labor Day.

MaryBe was also quoted in an article by Public News Service, “Labor Day Hangover: Low Wages Plague NC Citizens”, which talked how North Carolina’s rock-bottom minimum wage of $7.25 an hour falls at least $5 short of being a living wage in our state. “Unfortunately, far too many working people are struggling because they are stuck in these jobs that pay wages that don’t enable people to provide for their families,” said MaryBe.

Read the PNS article about laboring for less than livable wages in North Carolina.

A dozen working people, including members of CWA, USW, and Working America, turned out for the Triad CLC’s 2nd Annual Labor Day Service Project.

Labor Sabbath

This was the 3rd year of Labor Sabbath, our effort to encourage people of faith to commemorate Labor Day weekend by specifically highlighting the positive difference unions of working people have made and continue to make in the lives of members of faith communities.

Duke Divinity professor and Labor Sabbath organizer Amy Laura Hall wrote an essay published in the Durham Herald-Sun about why writers need a union. Having a collectively negotiated contract in place can give writers a third option when the dictates of editors would otherwise leave them with having to either put up or shut up. “Without labor unions, writers can become liars-for-hire,” says Amy Laura.

Read Amy Laura Hall’s Labor Sabbath essay, “The Naked Emperor and Labor Unions”.

NC Policy Watch published a reflection by Jewish community leader Ari Naveh with Carolina Jews for Justice on “the moral imperative that workers be afforded real human dignity.” In it, Ari invokes the memory of Clara Lemlich, a 19-year-old Jewish union organizer who, in 1909, organized the walkout of 15,000 ladies’ garment workers in New York City, an act for which she was brutally beaten by factory owners.

In his seminal text The Path of the Righteous, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato wrote that most people do not dream of stealing their neighbors’ property. However, in their business dealings, too many get a taste of stealing whenever they permit themselves to make an unfair profit at the expense of someone else.

Clara Lemlich knew this in 1909 when she organized 15,000 women to join forces and fight for their rights. And today, over 100 years later, we must continue to heed these words, and fight for living wages and union rights for all of North Carolina.

Read Ari Naveh’s Labor Sabbath message in The Progressive Pulse.

Asheville Citizen-Times published a guest column by Frank Goldsmith, a board member of Carolina Jews for Justice. “The Bible forbids us to oppress workers; we are required to pay wages when they are due, the day they are earned, and they must be sufficient to sustain life – that is, living wages (Deuteronomy 24:14-15),” says Frank. “After all, workers must feed themselves and their families.”

“We understand that righteousness prevails when ordinary people – each made in the image of God – join together to demand that their humanity be recognized by employers and policy-makers.” — Frank Goldsmith, 9/2/16

Read Frank Goldsmith’s Labor Sabbath guest column in the Asheville Citizen-Times.


This year, volunteers donated 3 hours of their Labor Day Saturday morning to clean the SECU Family House, which provides affordable temporary housing to families of adults who have to travel to Forsyth County for hospital care.

Check out photos from the service project on Facebook.