LABOR DAY USA
Holidays in the USA have become so commercialized and overlain with the popular culture’s icons that many of us forget, or never even learn, the original intent for the holiday observance.
It is so, for me, with Labor Day.
I ask a group of friends on a lunch break at work why we celebrate Labor Day… Flags seem to be the décor of the moment. Why? Is it like Memorial Day to commemorate our war dead? No. Or Fourth of July to celebrate the founding of our nation and constitution? No. So, what is it about?
One friend vaguely recalled that it had something to do with Labor Unions. A young colleague asks “what were labor unions?”… We older associates get a bit of a laugh, then realize the implications of our shared ignorance.
Once labor unions gave workers like us the power to stand against unfair work practices. Now, many companies…like that where we work…have rules against workers belonging to union at all!!
That says a lot about where we have come as a nation now, doesn’t it? Think!
Having a free day today, and feeling lazy about tackling my real writing projects, I look up the history of Labor Day in Wikipedia:
Turns out it started way back in the late 1800’s. President Grover Cleveland signed it into law following the deaths of workers at the hands of the US military during a railroad strike. They organized street parades showing the “strength of trade and labor organizations”. These would be followed by festivals for the workers and their families in individual communities in all the states. Later years brought speeches by politicians and prominent citizens as the emphasis turned more to the civil and educational significance of the Labor movement.
We still celebrate a three-day-weekend with state fairs, parades, picnics, and family get-togethers. Only now the holiday represents the “End of Summer”, and we celebrate the last hurrah before school starts. Perhaps this holiday has not been as badly altered as what comes next. Now we will enter the mad rush through Halloween and Thanksgiving to Black Friday and finally…ta da! Christmas.
So quickly we forget the lessons of the past. So soon we come to take our freedom for granted.