What’s Labor Day All About?

Have a Safe and Happy Labor Day!If Labor Day was meant to be a day of rest for us working folks, I’ve yet to see it, whether blue-collar, white-collar, or pink-collar. Women, especially, work their tails off fixing food for family gatherings and/or playing catch-up with household chores. Or, when trying to survive, putting in needed hours on homework assignments.

But for most people, except medical and other emergency workers, it’s at least a day away from the grind and the politics of the job. Yippee! All jobs have political overtones, just like family politics, church politics, and academic politics…all very tiresome, wearing, and mostly petty, though sometimes dangerous. We all need to recharge our personal batteries in some way.

History

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the first Monday in September is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers, in other words, it is a tribute. We have all worked hard for the well-being of our nation, though our contributions toward its prosperity have sometimes been negated by those suffering from the deadly sin of Greed.

The Labor Day holiday is much older and its history more violent than most of us would have imagined. There is some contention over whether Peter J. McGuire of the AFL put forward the first proposal in May 1882 after witnessing a Canadian Labour festival held in Toronto. In the same year, Matthew Maguire proposed a Labor Day holiday while Secretary of the CLU. In any event, the Central Labor Union celebrated in 1882 and 1883 in NYC.

Earliest official recognition of workers’ achievements came in 1885 and 1886 through various municipal ordinances. Attempts went on from there to achieve recognition at the state level, first succeeding in Oregon in 1887. Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York enacted laws later that same year.

By 1894, at least 30 other states had adopted the holiday. President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday after the violent end of the Pullman Strike, also extending the holiday to the District of Columbia and the U. S. Territories.

Parades or ?

For most of us, there are few parades to watch these days. In 55 years here, I haven’t lived in a single community that held one the first Monday in September. County fairs are common and well-attended, and that’s as good an exhibition as anything, if you can handle the heat! It can be so much fun to attend a county fair and it reminds us of the source of the strength of this nation. If no parades, certainly there are barbecues and retail sales over Labor Day weekend. Sports seasons begin in earnest once past the pre-season games.

The silent fallout from the observance is that in the U.S. we’re not supposed to wear white in public after Labor Day. Sez who? But it’s incredible how many millions of women and even men slavishly observe this cultural fashion stupidity. Except for California, that is. Most women here are far too independent to follow the rest of the nation.

As Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, so Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer and vacations. Can Christmas be far behind Columbus Day, Hallowe’en, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving? My mailbox tells me not.

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