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Celebrating the Worker


Before heading off to that Labor Day picnic, consider signing on to your computer for a game of "Smash Corporate Greed" or "Find the Health Insurance." While you're at it, you could download a coloring book with labor-friendly messages for the kid, or e-mail a member of Congress about raising the minimum wage.

Don't have a picnic to go to? The Internet will help you find one, via a weeklong online festival that claims to have the nation's most comprehensive list of parades, picnics, pancake breakfasts and other Labor Day events.

Sponsored by the national AFL-CIO and running through Wednesday, the site-- a high-tech attempt to put the spirit of labor back into Labor Day.

"This is our day, a day to celebrate working people," said Donna Jablonski, director of publications for the AFL-CIO and the festival's principal architect. "We want everyone to know about the things we work for, how important the gains have been and how much more we have to do."

The site features a documentary photo essay on 100 years of labor history, clips from a new Ken Loach film on the Justice for Janitors movement and testimonials from workers who are members of unions or are campaigning to join one. Labor, religious and political leaders, including Vice President Al Gore, plan to address the festival through live video feeds.

There will a "sweat-free" shopping bazaar featuring union-made merchandise, musical performances from hip-hop to folk, and an animated parade. And just to be sure the site gets plenty of hits, visitors can sign up for giveaway prizes, including free computers and software.

"I think it's engaging enough that people will spend some time at their computers, and more than once," Jablonski said. "But another goal of the festival is to link people up with other union members in their communities. That's the beauty of the Internet."

The festival is a first for the labor federation, which represents about 13 million union members, and is part of a larger strategy to get union members connected online. Last year, the federation launched its own portal,, which offers unlimited Internet access for $14.95 a month. The AFL-CIO also sells computers to union members at discounted rates.

Hundreds of union locals have their own Web pages, and usage has soared, with the federation's site-- about 300,000 hits a month, said Jablonski, who predicted heavy traffic durng this week's festival.

The Internet has a plethora of sources to learn more about the Labor Day holiday. After visiting the site, you might also want to check out:

* The Department of Labor, History of Labor Day (http://www.dol

.gov/dol/opa/public/aboutdol/laborday.htm ) says Labor Day is a "national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength [and] prosperity of our country." Read a short history of how it all came about.

* LaborNet ( is an online network for the labor movement that includes forums, news archives, links to international sites and a labor video.

* UnionWeb ( has numerous links to union Web pages, including many local, national and international sites. There is also an section on labor history.

* The Detroit News, Rearview Mirror living history project

( or/labor.htm) is from the hometown of the United Auto Workers. This package of articles and historic photos gives a comprehensive look at the rise of organized labor, with some emphasis on the UAW.

* National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice ( links religious values to the fight for workers. It includes a downloadable document, "Labor in the Pulpits: Worship Aids for Labor Day 2000," with ideas for Labor Day worship services.


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