If you have the day off, this is probably one of the rare times you’re actually happy that it’s Monday. I did a little bit of research into the origins of Labor Day to know the history of the holiday. Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882 and when you think about its origins, it’s actually a pretty hideous story. Today, though, few schools teach in depth about the labor movement and I doubt many kids know what the holiday is intended to honor.
And Labor Day History begins like this: Many immigrants settled in New York City in the nineteenth century. They found that living conditions were not as wonderful as they had dreamed. Often there were six families crowded into a house made for one family. Thousands of children had to go to work. Working conditions were even worse. Immigrant men, women and children worked in factories for ten to twelve hours a day, stopping only for a short time to eat. They came to work even if they were tired or sick because if they didn’t, they might be fired. Thousands of people were waiting to take their places.
Throughout American history, there have been numerous labor struggles. Some naturally have been much more significant to the labor movement than others. The Pullman Strike of 1894 is one such struggle that not only “helped split the movement, but also raised the doubts about the power of unskilled workers to win their demands”. President Grover Cleveland sent US Marshalls and the US Army to break the strike, led to the deaths of 13 strikers and the wounding of 57 others. But far more important is the Haymarket Riot/Massacre of 1886. On May 4, 1886, a deadly confrontation between police and protesters erupted at Chicago’s Haymarket Square. A labor strike was in progress at the McCormick farm equipment works, and police and Pinkerton security guards had shot several workers.
A public demonstration had been called to protest police violence. Eyewitnesses later described a “peaceful gathering of upwards of 1,000 people listening to speeches and singing songs when authorities began to move in and disperse the crowd.” Suddenly a bomb exploded, followed by pandemonium and an exchange of gunfire. Eleven people were killed including seven police officers. More than a hundred were injured. The proclamation of Labor Day in September in the United States can only be interpreted as an effort to isolate the working American from his colleagues around the world, and obscure the History of what Management did to Labor in Chicago in 1886. Labor Day in the United States is better described as mocking than celebrating the working man in America. Why should the American working man celebrate Labor Day in September when the workers of the world are celebrating it on May first in commemoration of American Martyrs to the labor movement? This question is clarified by the fact that May first is observed unilaterally by workers (not by management), while the September holiday is enjoyed by all, perpetuating the myth that Labor and Management are both working together. (More information – graveyards.com and kentlaw.edu.)
Well, reading about it made me get sick; how Human beings can be awful cruel to one another. I hope everyone has a relaxing weekend and that you get to spend time with those that you love.