I realized last week that I was getting excited about celebrating a holiday I knew nothing about. For me Labor Day and Memorial Day have always been interchangeable. It’s sad that as an American I can’t tell the difference between two holidays that signify a lot of things in this country.
So I did what I always do when I want to learn about something. I Googled it.
Labor Day was enacted in response to the Pullman Strike. The strike began as an answer from the labor unions to the railroad companies reduction of wages. During the course of the strike, tensions were high and 60 people were either killed or injured due to military involvement. The holiday was enacted as a political move to appease and smooth over the unions and public opinion.
While the holiday’s started with political intentions in mind, the spirit of the holiday is different. Traditionally leading tradespeople and local politicians would give speeches and hold a parade, even host a fair of sorts for tradespeople to sell their goods.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of Labor Day, up until this point none of this has stuck out in my memory. It’s been a day to take off work, relax at the end of summer and celebrate the coming of non-100 degree weather.
Now when I think about Labor Day I’m going to think of the railroad workers fighting for their wages. It reminds me of the Disney musical, Newsies where the kids strike back at major newspaper owners in New York City. Actually, these two instances in history happened fairly close to one another.
From now on when I think of Labor Day I’m going to think of the little man, the under dog that no one thinks can make a difference.
So, happy Labor Day people. This day is for you.