Labor Day is an 'Irish holiday,' as the Irish created the union movement

Dock laborers in New York, 1912.

To draw attention to the plight of immigrant and undocumented workers, the AFL-CIO sponsored the Immigrant Workers Freedom Rides and many such marches on Washington.

“The way we are treating the present millions of immigrant workers in our country is a disgrace. Immigrant workers are being exploited even more than they have ever been in our country,” Sweeney told Irish America magazine.

Sweeney was Irish America magazine’s 2004 Irish American of the Year.

“My parents were both Irish immigrants, so we grew up in that culture, where social justice was a big thing," he told Irish America. "It was something that I felt very strongly about, and in my youngest days I could draw the contrast between my father being a member of the union and my mother a domestic worker with no union and no benefits.”

John Sweeney retired in 2009. Thank you, John; together with the other Irish great labor leaders you have ensured that all of us Irish can take a little extra pride in celebrating Labor Day.

*Orginally published in September 2011.