What Labor Day means?

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At the time Labor Day was formed, unions were fighting for “very specific improvements in their working conditions,” Freeman said.

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Workers were fighting hard for the eight-hour work day most workers enjoy today. 

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And Labor Day was an opportunity for them to come together to discuss their priorities – and for the country to acknowledge the contributions workers make to society.

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But there was also a more radical political thread to the Labor Day celebration, Freeman says. 

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The Knights of Labor were exploring the idea that “what we call the capitalist or industrial system was fundamentally exploitative,” he said. 

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“It introduced kind of inequities and inequalities, not just in wealth, but also in power. 

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So they wanted a greater say in society for working people.”

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“Back when Labor Day began, there were a lot of voices that were fundamentally challenging this emerging system,” Freeman added. 

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Labor leaders at the time advocated for alternatives to the “capitalist wage system,” like collective ownership of corporations or socialism.

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