Today has been a federal holiday in the United States since Congress made it so in 1894 during the second administration of President Grover Cleveland. Opinions on this editorial page offer appropriate comment on current labor issues, including futures for wages and employment creation in America. Moreover, job growth strategy will be of utmost importance in the upcoming elections.
So what is today for?
Labor Day seems a non-controversial occasion to observe the dignity of labor and the contribution of the working men and women of the country, a phrase we're apt to toss off without thinking about it. Indeed, although it is Labor Day, it is an occasion upon which we generally do not work, unless we happen to be in emergency services or public safety. (Or work at a newspaper!) Labor? Most of us work, don't we? On Labor Day, Americans celebrate and honor hard work!
It's not as simple as that.
Labor Day was a creation of the union movement and far from universally accepted. Indeed, there was a lot of strife in this country as workers in the countless factories, varied industries and all sorts of occupations struggled to make personal workplaces safer. Owners of many of those factories and the presidents and stockholders of corporations were not happy at all to watch workers banding together and demanding things like the eight-hour day or the removal of unsafe machinery. That sort of demand cut into profits.
There was violence, periodically, as workers got together to claim a fairer share of the affluent society they were a part of, and, although Americans hate to discuss such things, there were very strong elements of class struggle.
Not every man thought of himself as a worker; indeed, prejudices were such that some individuals tried very hard not to be labeled as "working class."
A lot of years have passed since those days, and for decades this nation has been blessed with general labor peace. Even as contemporary questions abound regarding U.S. jobs and unions, the very universal neglect with which today is not observed by so many of us is, in an odd way, a cause for celebration itself.
Enjoy and appreciate this holiday!