Sunday, September 2, 2012

Not So Trivial Labor Day Trivia

Did you know
· That a Labor Day holiday was first proposed in 1882 by Matthew Maguire, a machinist and secretary of the Central Labor Union?
· That Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday in 1887?
· That President Grover Cleveland and Congress unanimously approved Labor Day as a national holiday in 1904 after the deaths of a number of workers in the Pullman Strike and signed into law six days after the end of the strike?
· That the original proposal for the holiday was for a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and spirit of corps of the trade and labor organizations," followed by a festival for the workers and their families? 
For many Labor Day is a long weekend, the last chance for a break before the kids go back to school and an often frantic fall schedule begins. For those of us who are retired with no school age kids at home, the weekend may pass with little notice. 
I once wrote 
Celebrations are the ritualized interruptions in the continuum of daily life which remind us of who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.”
I believe that all celebrations, whether birthdays, Christmas, or Labor Day have the potential to renew the human spirit when they are not totally given over to over-indulgence and entertainment.
Maybe this weekend, whether you are cooking out with family and friends or spending a quiet weekend at home, you might take a few moments to reflect on what this day means.
With the industrial Revolution came the unprecedented concentration of laborers, working and living in deplorable conditions, and grossly underpaid. They organized to get better wages and working conditions and to enhance their status in society. 

Few would disagree that the weight of the Great Recession has fallen heaviest on poor and working class people.
Maybe this is a good weekend to remember your own working experience, and remember those whose labor gets food to your table, who teach your children and grandchildren, who work on the fire lines, who care for you in the hospital, and the countless others without whose labors we couldn’t live; and give thanks for them.


RBW said...

Dear Milo,
You took so long off I thought you had gone fly fishing and not returned. So many of us read and fail to comment or acknowledge your efforts.
The working people that seem to be most abused are the people that are so committed to their end users that they would work for nothing if they had to. Many places it seems that is what ends up happening. Teachers, nurses, firemen, etc, wind up with chopped wages and benefits and very restricted rights to bargain. Such is this time when we scorn education, labor and thoughtful dialogue.
Thank you for all the effort you put into this site. RBW

Milo Thornberry said...

Thanks for your kind words! I hope you are having a good day.

I share your concerns about the attacks on unions and the scorning of education. Both are central issues for me in the coming election.