Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day 2011

In this year that began in Wisconsin with the tearing apart of collective bargaining, Labor Day has a special meaning it hasn't had to deal with in a long time. Here's some history:

The first Labor Day in the United States was observed on September 5, 1882, by the Central Labor Union of New York. It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date originally chosen by the CLU of New York and observed by many of the nation's trade unions for the past several years was selected rather than the more widespread International Workers' Day because Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair, which it had been observed to commemorate. All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have made it a statutory holiday.
I find it hard to understand how unions have become demonized again. Most union workers are the heart and soul of the American workforce. But unions are in the midst of hard times. Perhaps we need to remember where this all came from and why.

Here are Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie celebrating:

No comments: