Labor Day: A Unifying Holiday


ImageFor many Americans, today is the official last day of Summer. There will be barbecues, parades, flags flying in patriotic glory. There will be salutes to our soldiers at home and abroad. The politicians will pander to their constituents and promise them that they are working for their future as they point an accusing finger to the past.

Image“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” – John F. Kennedy

What is Labor Day? When did it start? And more importantly, who started it all?Image

Almost every perk and benefit that the 21st Century worker enjoys can be directly traced back to labor unions. Back in the early days of the Industrial Revolution through the early 20th Century, employers were allowed to dictate the working conditions, hours, and pay of the working class. Wages were kept low and working conditions were unsafe, even deadly. The concept of paid time off (PTO) did not exist, as we know it today. Neither did an eight hour workday, overtime, double-time, or even federal paid holidays. Only the wealthy could afford a vacation. Some business owners obliged their employees, although begrudgingly, a paid holiday for Christmas Day. Even Bob Cratchit had to plead to not work on Christmas Day.

Image“It’s a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every December the 25th. But as I seem to be the only man who knows that… take the day.” Ebenezer Scrooge, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Despite a history of corruption and violence, the organization of the trade unions, as early as the 1820’s in the United States, led to improvements in the workplace. It limited how young our children could be to work, gave us higher wages, a safe place to work, and our weekend. It also gave us the federal holiday called Labor Day, which celebrates the workers, past, present, and future, who work to make our corner of the world a better place.

Image“A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.” –  Albert Einstein

Politicians are always looking to show that they are bipartisan. That they can reach across the aisle as a gesture of compromise and work, on our behalf, for a better future. Our working class consists of conservatives, moderates, liberals, libertarians, and many other political ideologies.

Image

Let’s remember where Labor Day came from and why we celebrate the worker in our country. Let’s reach across our own invisible aisle and celebrate the American worker, regardless if they are a builder, the office worker, a civil servant, or a member of the armed forces, serving at home or abroad. Let us be thankful for the blood, sweat, tears, and lives of those who came before us. Let’s keep our future in mind as we grill burgers and hot dogs in their honor.

Image“I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.” – John D. Rockefeller

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2 comments

  1. carterj98 · · Reply

    Good work. Here’s a little more:

    Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894–you might include that. Congress passed it in a rush right after the Pullman Strike, in which several strikers were killed by U.S. marshals and servicemen; Grover Cleveland signed the bill immediately.

    1. Thanks, Carter! I don’t have to add it, because you already did…interactive learning is fun.

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