In a few days we will celebrate Labor Day. Do you know what we are celebrating? In our popular culture, Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, the beginning of Football Season, and the last day the high society folks can wear white or seersucker (does ANYONE wear seersucker, ever??). We celebrate by watching a parade, having a backyard barbeque, or going shopping. Most people have the day off, unless you work in retail or you provide essential services. Again, do you know what we are celebrating?
We are celebrating the American worker. That’s you and me. We are celebrating all the people who get up early, punch a clock, work the night shift, juggle family and career, and burn the midnight oil. We are celebrating dentists, nurses, plumbers, waiters, teachers, mail carriers, and all the rest.
The first Labor Day was proposed in 1882 by either Peter J. McGuire, the cofounder of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) or Matthew Maguire, a machinist. Historians disagree on who had the original idea. The first holiday was celebrated in New York City on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. It was a contentious time among workers, management, and government. The idea for the holiday spread throughout the nation with the growth of labor organizations and unions. Oregon was the first state to pass a law making Labor Day a holiday in 1887. Twenty three other states soon followed. In 1894, there was a particularly ugly strike starting in Pullman, Illinois, near Chicago. There was violence and bloodshed. President Grover Cleveland called in Federal troops to end the strike. On June 28, of that same year, Congress unanimously voted to make the first Monday in September a federal holiday. President Cleveland signed the Labor Day legislation into law days later.
So, as you enjoy your long Labor Day weekend, remember to celebrate what was the original intent. Celebrate the American worker. Celebrate you!