Labor Day...a history
POSTED: Monday, September 2, 2013 - 5:33pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 12:23pm
These days, Labor Day is all about picnics, cookouts or 20% off sales.
But how did we get the holiday and what is it supposed to be all about?
We have holidays that celebrate events, Presidents, the military and great leaders.
But only one celebrates the average working man and woman who keep this economy humming.
Today is a day set aside to honor those who built this country and this economy.
The average men and women working 9-5 or more to produce the goods and services that have made this country economically at least, the envy of the world.
Canada was the first to declare a holiday to celebrate the contributions of working folks in the 19th century.
Oregon was the first American state followed by New York and others.
Now, the labor movement was gaining influence in America.
But it wasn’t until the railway strike of 1894, and the deaths that occurred when President Cleveland sent troops to break it up, that to calm the anger citizens felt, he declared the first Monday in September Labor Day.
One way to look at Labor Day is to think about how different things are now than in 1894.
Child labor laws mean that children will spend time in school rather than in a sometimes dangerous profession.
The minimum wage brought an end to sometimes starvation wage rates in some companies.
Worker safety rules have improved conditions for those who toil in large industrial operations.
Social Security, the 40-hour work week, and other changes make this a much different world for workers.
Of course, automation has taken its toll and there are jobs that have quietly disappeared. Think of the milkman, the iceman, typists and switchboard operators. All these are gone.
But that’s the nature of progress, and so, once a year on this day, we take a break, and hopefully, think about of friends and neighbors and colleagues who even today, showed up and got it done.
Of course, today we still argue the minimum wage, worker safety and hours.
But thank goodness, it is a different world for workers from the one in 1894.