Those Who Made America
As we come to celebrate the end-of-summer three-day weekend, let us pause to reflect on why we celebrate Labor Day.
Labor Day is observed on the first Monday in September and has come to symbolize the end of summer for many Americans. Many celebrate with parties, parades and athletic events, but it’s origins come from the achievements and contributions of the American worker, mostly to recognize how they have contributed to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
Labor Day was first celebrated as a holiday by the Central Labor Union on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, but didn’t receive much recognition elsewhere. As workers demanded more and unions became stronger, Oregon became the first state to make Labor Day an official public holiday. By 1894, thirty U.S. states officially celebrated Labor Day, but it took a recession to make it a national holiday.
The recession reduced the demand for railway cars and prompted Chicago railway tycoon George Pullman to lay off workers and reduce wages, prompting many of his workers to go on strike. The American Railway Union sympathized and refused to handle any Pullman cars, reducing commerce in many parts of the country.
Pullman workers started their strike in May of 1894 and quickly escalated. President Grover Cleveland responded by sending federal troops to Chicago to crush the strike resulting in many casualties. By the fall, the strike was over and the dust settled. The United States Congress unanimously voted to approve legislation to make Labor Day a national holiday with President Cleveland signing it into law only six days after the end of the strike.
The labor movement had been demanding a holiday for years and many felt that the Labor Day legislation was an attempt to pacify the angry workers.
As years passed, more emphasis was placed upon the civil significance of Labor Day and in 1909, a resolution of the American Federation of Labor dedicated the holiday to the spiritual and educational aspects of the Labor movement and declared the Sunday preceding Labor Day to be known as Labor Sunday.
One can not deny that the vital force of American labor has provided its citizens a high standard of living and made this county the greatest producer in the world.
As you celebrate your end-of-summer three-day weekend, take time to remember those who forged our traditions, ideals and our democracy — the American worker.
If you are a business owner with employees, take a moment and think of some ways you can show your appreciation to those who work hard for your business. It’s easy to be tempted in to thinking you built it all yourself but the truth is your business has grown with some good help. Think of a few creative things you can do to show gratitude to those hard working folks. Perhaps offer some time to work from home. How about lose the dress code or an office policy for a day? If you have the means, throw an employee appreciation luncheon and present a few awards to those have have shown exemplary behavior.
Don’t forget your customers! Offer discounts, deals and freebies to those that come in to your store and present their business card, or come in wearing a shirt showing their employer’s logo. How your business can play a part?