The creamer in my coffee is congealed and has left an unsightly ring around the middle of my Harry Potter mug. I have 42 unanswered emails and another 14 phone calls to return. The novel I am penning beckons like a toddler for immediate attention, and Sierra the Writer Dog begs for another Pumpkin Spice Milkbone. These are the menial efforts in my life that I describe as labor. So, do I really need a day of celebration to recover from this deep stress inflicted upon me? I will admit that an extra day of schlepping around the house in my Abercrombie plaid pajama pants and Billabong over washed T-shirt is a welcomed gift from my government (and employer). However, I realize this day comes with great personal sacrifice from forefathers that held jobs where taking a day off guaranteed unemployment and likely starvation. Explore with me why we hold this holiday every year, whether it be the first Monday of every September in the USA and Canada or on the first day of May by European countries, China and others around the world.
The first US Labor Day parade was held in New York City on Monday, September 5, 1882. There was no significance to this date, but workers’ unions picked it because it was exactly halfway between Independence and Thanksgiving Day. May first was selected by workers around the globe to commemorate not only workers but the hope of summer.
U.S. President Grover Cleveland, who was not a labor union cheerleader, signed a federal law on June 28th 1894 designating the first Monday of September as a day that all workers would celebrate their proud heritage and efforts to the labor masses. There is speculation that pressure resulting from a botched strike-ending attempt earlier that year was the catalyst for the ratification of the Labor Day law. He had dispatched Federal troops to a demonstration being held by the American Railway Union at the Pullman Co. in the heart of Chicago, IL. Things got wildly out of hand and 34 workers lost their lives during the strike.
As we pack away all our white clothing, get down the Hallows Eve decorations, and Shutterfly this year’s summer vacation photos, let’s remember that we enjoy this celebration of our labor masses thanks to strong and independent thinkers of the industrial revolution. Now let’s put down our Lattes, don our steeled-toe worker’s boots or carpel tunnel gloves, and get back to work. We have much to be thankful for.