We have the labor unions of America to thank for today’s holiday. (We also have the labor movement to thank for weekends and eight-hour workdays and, you know, not being chained to our factory machines.)
As The Writer’s Almanac tells us:
The first Labor Day was celebrated 131 years ago, on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. The holiday was the idea of the Central Labor Union in New York City, which organized a parade and a picnic featuring speeches by union leaders. It was intended to celebrate labor unions and to recognize the achievements of the American worker.
The celebrations became more popular across the country in the next 10 years. In 1894, Congress made Labor Day a national holiday.
(The Writer’s Almanac doesn’t mention the holiday was hurried through legislation because of political backlash from the Pullman Strike, in which 30 members of the American Railway Union were killed.)
My dad is a union man so maybe I’m more aware of them in general (I remember Dad having to picket), but I think it’s a shame that a holiday that every worker enjoys the benefits of now just means “no more white jeans” and furniture sales.
Woody Guthrie, the New Harmony Sisterhood Band, and I will do our best to change that, though: