Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day

For those living in countries not celebrating Labor Day today, the roots of the day and its initial meaning are these:
Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.


In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.
Yeah, I did notice the "workingmen's holiday" but that was over a hundred years ago and we have changed since then.

Not all those changes have been so positive. For instance, note that the Labor Day was initially created by trade unionists! And it was supposed to honor the laboring classes!

How different all that looks in 2011. Labor unions are slightly worse than the devil (and certainly couldn't get a new federal holiday adopted), many blue-collar and pink-collar jobs have packed their bags and moved abroad, the unemployment rate refuses to come down and far too many politicians see their jobs as making sure that the laboring classes don't have any!

Or at least that they have no job security, no retirement benefits, no health care, no minimum wages, no federally guaranteed proper annual vacations, no right to safe working conditions and so on and so on.

And what IS the Labor Day in 2011? It's a last hurrah for the summer, one of the few annual holidays Americans can claim, a time for a big barbeque. It's not about honoring labor.

Which is almost as sad as the fact that the working class in the United States is almost powerless, unaware and mostly ignored in public policies.