What Is Labor Day?

As we head into the long weekend, I suspect that very few people contemplate the meaning of Labor Day. To most, the long weekend is the meaning of Labor Day, along with end of summer parties, the beginning of the school year, etc. When I was growing up, Labor Day was marked by a parade that passed by my Grandmother’s house. Participants in the parade threw candy to the spectators. My brother and I were wildly creative as children so we called it “the Candy Parade.”

Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894 in the wake of the violent Pullman Strike. The holiday was conceived as a means of reconciliation with the labor movement and the legislation establishing the holiday was rushed through Congress and signed into law by President Cleveland days after the strike ended. The first Monday in September was chosen to avoid aligning the American labor holiday with international May Day celebrations, which carried negative associations with the Haymarket Affair (it’s the Friday before a long weekend, Google it yourself).

These days the economy is down and employment litigation is up. Maybe it is worth thinking about the spirit of reconciliation that inspired the holiday as we enjoy the long weekend. Here are some other thoughts on labor and Labor Day:

Labor Day differs in every essential from other holidays of the year in any country. All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflict and battles of man’s prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race or nation. ~Samual Gompers

If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. ~Abraham Lincoln

Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor. ~Ulysses S. Grant

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence ~Martin Luther King, Jr

I think the best possible social program is a job. ~Ronald Reagan

Labor Day is a glorious holiday because your child will be going back to school the next day. It would have been called Independence Day, but that name was already taken. ~Bill Dodds

Have a nice Labor Day.

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