Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Little Something About Labor Day

I drove my brother's Cadillac around all weekend with the windows down, the sunroof open and the tunes blasting. I don't get to see JohnMac more than about once a year due to how far away he lives, so when he suggested picking me and kiddo up and us all driving up to hang out with the parents and the rest of my siblings, I readily agreed. What ensued was a Labor Day weekend filled with pizza, beer, cookouts, basketball tournaments and friendly discussions about whether or not my Mustang was superior to his Cadillac. Not a bad weekend for the unofficial "Last Weekend Of Summer".

My brother was off to see a bunch of his old high school friends and graciously allowed me the use of his Cadillac during the day while he was gone. I drove around through Chicago, zig zagging through the railways and recalling how many of the worker benefits we enjoy in the United States today such as the eight hour work day and the celebration of Labor Day were borne out of the Chicago labor movement.

We've come to see Labor Day as the the last change to have an epic weekend before the weather starts to turn. What we often forget, however, is that we owe thanks to organized labor for making this sort of celebratory experience possible. Labor Day was first proposed as a holiday back in 1882 by organized labor officials (reports vary as to which specific individual deserves the credit). Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894 in the aftermath of the Pullman Strike in which 13 strikers were killed and 57 were wounded, many of them at the hands of US Military which had been called in by President Grover Cleveland to break the strike.

It's almost ironic now that retail corporations see Labor Day as the perfect time to have a sale, thus forcing employees to work longer hours.

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