There’s one weekend during the year where suddenly we
realize that summer’s almost gone.
While we bask in the dimming light and recall vacations, special events,
picnics, and barbeques that made the summer special, we must remember who we
owe for this last three-day weekend; American Labor Unions.
This holiday began over a century ago with very different
intentions than that which are celebrated today. Along with the increase in United States industrialization
at the turn of the 20th century came harsh working conditions, poor
living situations, long hours, less pay, and no job security. It’s important to remember the
benefits we now have as a result of the Labor Movements’ advancement. Labor Day is a
celebration of the working class.
A man named Peter McGuire was one
of the first to organize a Labor Movement as he joined with over 100,000
workers for a strike in spring of 1872.
McGuire’s idea of unionizing or organizing workers according to
their trade began to catch on all over the country.
One famous example is the strike of The American
Railway Union led by Eugene V. Debs.
When the strike got out of hand due to the burning and looting of
railway cars, President
Grover Cleveland declared the strike a federal crime and sent 12,000 troops
to diffuse the situation. Two men
were killed as a result and on August 3rd, 1894 the strike was
In an effort to make up for the loss of lives and as a ploy
for re-election, Cleveland signed a bill six days later naming the first Monday
of September Labor Day. He lost
the election but the holiday still stands. The first states to celebrate the holiday were Oregon,
Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Other industrialized countries such as Canada also celebrate
Labor Day. On September 5th,
1882, the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City with over 20,000
workers marching along the streets.
The idea of a Union has definitely served its purpose over
the last several decades but is slowly becoming scarce. What once was a fierce topic of debate
is now a wake up call for those unprepared for back-to-school week. An important contribution to our
history, Labor Day is a day to remember the movement that awarded us the
comfortable working conditions we so enjoy when not bathing in the sunshine.
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